Will technology affect white collar jobs?

The double trend of globalization and robotics – ‘Globotics“, will lead to unprecedented disruption that could displace workers at the fastest rate in global history.

History teaches us that automation has reduced blue-collar jobs; will technology affect white collar jobs?

Robots have begun to conquer our world and replace us in all sectors and industries. Today, we know that AI is helping us perform skilled tasks at the highest conceptual level, not just in offices and boardrooms, but now in hospitals and spas.

It is about the automation of service and professional jobs and globalization. Professor of economics at the Graduate Institute of Geneva, prof. Richard Baldwin – he calls this phenomenon “Globotics”. Globotics deals with the automation of remote jobs and robotic arms that replace human hands. This is an example of the kinds of disruptions that would eliminate white-collar and service jobs faster than ever before.

Today, digitally driven telemigration has resulted in a new phase of globalization. This has increased competition among global talent and created new opportunities for professional, white-collar and other service jobs across borders. Machine translation has created tidal waves of talent that could be used to transfer new knowledge and skills to the business world. The proliferation of technology has caused a radical transformation of the world economy. The power of artificial intelligence has reduced the human monopoly on thinking in terms of white-collar professions in the fields of medicine, finance, employment and law.

Today, the whole thing is called robotic process automation; it’s like digital knowledge workers. A process of automation led computers to open e-mail; it reads, understands mail, opens the database and makes appropriate changes and closes it, all without humans and 100 times faster and with fewer errors than humans. I think it is precisely the replacement of these types of jobs that will go the fastest. There is a serious possibility that the shift will happen very soon.

ML and algorithm-enhanced image recognition can perform complex tasks in competition with highly skilled professionals. Therefore, doctors, bankers and lawyers are among those who will need to share their skills and knowledge to perform duties in sync with artificial intelligence. The combination of globalization and robotics based on artificial intelligence will lead to a globotic upheaval, which will pose a threat to the basic principles of the social market economy. The speed of transformation threatens to overwhelm the human capacity to adapt. Once robots start doing things that humans do, like drawing architectural plans, reviewing legal documents, and trying to find evidence, they’re very good at it.

Robots can be thought of as containers in which AI is stored. According to the International Federation of Robotics (IFR), these are machines that are “automatically controlled, reprogrammable and multi-purpose” (Acemoglu and Restrepo 2017). Unlike humans, robots are capable of working 24-hour shifts and can be easily reprogrammed to implement changes in production processes. Contrary to popular belief, robots do not have to be programmed by humans. By observing humans, the software inside the robot can record the sequenced steps needed to perform tasks and replicate the sequence.

In the formal service sector, robots are already a significant phenomenon: they prepare and serve meals and manage cash registers (Tabuchi 2010); sell products ranging from DVDs to cars (Semuels 2011, Ford 2015); distribute medicines in pharmacies and hospital rooms (King 2010); and replace mid-level secretarial and managerial skills (see Autor 2010, Jaimovich and Siu 2012) as well as those of highly paid consultants.

Robotic activity is increasing in the following sectors. However, humans still have a major advantage over robots that is unlikely to be erased in the next 20 years: translation, novel writing, news reporting, art, and composing and performing music (see Hicks 2018, Schaub 2016, Carr 2009, Moses 2017, Ford 2015, Shubber 2013, Smith 2013). Given the limitations of humanoids, humans would still be needed in the hospitality sector and as versatile caregivers for the elderly. We need to match capacities where artificial intelligence is less good; the most human tasks are those it cannot perform. Like motivating people, managing people, providing creativity, dealing with unfamiliar situations, applying ethics – these things require a human touch or human talent. These things AI cannot do

We need to train our students and children today to make sure they are not preparing for jobs that will disappear very, very soon. But for people who have jobs, you need to consider moving to different remote positions. Today, higher education is not enough. You need to focus more on people skills.

about the author


dr. Annapoorna, is a professor at the International School of Management Excellence (ISME), Bengaluru. Her educational qualification is MA (Economics), MBA (HRM), PG Diploma in Women’s Studies and PhD (Economics). It has expertise in designing and developing globally and industrially relevant curriculum, keeping in mind Choice Based Credit System (CBCS), OBE and NEP -2020 consideration in all UG and PG programmes. Domain understanding in economics education, management education and quality benchmarks in higher education, implementation of the new education policy 2020, industry interface in higher education, university management and governance, etc.

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