4th April 2018

The 4th Industrial Revolution and why it’s too early to get into the predictions business about the future of work


Mass unemployment: Software and robots to replace humans?

Steam powered the first Industrial Revolution across the 18th and 19th centuries. Electricity and oil powered the second. The transition from analogue to digital has been the driving force behind the third.
The 4th Industrial Revolution (4IR) is perhaps the most complex to describe because it revolves around breakthroughs in several complementary fields, including robotics, artificial intelligence, nanotechnology, quantum computing, biotechnology, The Internet of Things, 3D printing and autonomous vehicles.
There is a lot of interest around this subject although it is often wrapped up in the debate about the future of work. Much of the time the discussion is used to ‘sell’ the idea that mass unemployment is going to result as machine learning and artificial intelligence enables the development of software and robots that replace humans in the workplace.

More likely to be displacement not replacement

This is highly speculative and is not supported by the lessons of history. Historical perspective on the earlier technological eras shows that much of what seems like it might lead to the replacement of human labour is actually only going to create displacement – work is still there to be done by humans, but the nature of the work changes.
For instance, underground train tunnels for the early London Underground were dug by hand by Victorian labourers. Contrast this with tunnel boring machines used for the recent Crossrail project. Today’s manual workers are freed of such dangerous and monotonous toil and can do something of higher value.

Too early to get into the predictions business

It’s long-term outcomes such as this that might influence why many academic experts caution it is too early to get into the predictions business about the extent and the specific impacts of the 4IR.
Interviewed for BBC Click technology news programme, Judy Wajcman, Professor of Sociology, LSE said, “I would argue that it’s impossible to predict. So much depends on the context, the technology used, how people use it, whether it’s worth automating or not automating.”
And others adopt a ‘glass half full’ stance. Rose Luckin, Professor of Learner Centred Design, UCL Knowledge Lab also spoke to BBC Click: “We need to think about how we might use AI, not to replace people, but to help people work differently, more effectively and actually, probably more enjoyably.”

Automation and the growth of the API economy

The current wave of software automation technologies is creating significant opportunities. The API Economy, is a great example. This is where businesses leverage the automated process of secure information exchange between different software platforms and applications to power new revenue generating service innovations, and it is firmly established.
Some of the leading lights of tech have been leveraging automation and blazing the trail for others to follow and grow the API Economy. For instance, in 2016, APIs created 50% of Salesforce.com’s revenue; $9bn for Expedia; $208bn for eBay and enabled 5bn transactions per day for Google. For 2018, API-based data exchange is estimated to generate $2.2 trillion. But what is the ‘software automation’ underpinning such significant levels of economic activity?

Software automation and Open Banking

One simplified explanation of software automation is it eliminates paper-based processes and manipulates electronically stored information to achieve an end result. In the case of back office automation with ETZ, digital timesheet information is manipulated through a process to produce a range of outcomes. This includes payments to temps or contractors and an invoice to the client, and it’s all within a digital workflow that doesn’t require a single sheet of paper.
Open Banking, which has recently opened up the financial services market to Fintech innovators and disruptors, is one of the most exciting areas for APIs and software automation. This weakens the ability of larger financial institutions and banks to dominate the market. We can all expect to benefit as new services offer us greater convenience and increase choice in personal finance, all underpinned by software automation and the secure permission-based exchange of our financial data.

Enjoy the benefits of the 4IR and API economy today with ETZ

ETZ recruitment back office automation and integration solutions use automation to securely exchange information using APIs, helping recruitment firms reduce back office costs by up to 85%.
ETZ delivers benefits from API integration with other leading cloud technology platforms that are widely used in the recruitment sector. This includes yu:talent CRM, JobAdder and Xero accounting.
ETZ delivers process efficiency which eliminates time-consuming manual tasks with automated processing. This accelerates back office tasks like invoicing and payroll and frees up back office staff to concentrate on higher value tasks or strategic activity.
To find out more about how we can help your recruitment agency towards a more efficient back office, simply get in touch.
Click here to learn about how new technologies could create thousands of new British jobs in the article ‘Fourth industrial revolution could unlock £445bn for UK, report reveals’ at guardian.co.uk

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