Abhijit BhaduriGuest Author

The Digital Tsunami: Driverless And Jobless

By Abhijit Bhaduri, CLO, WIPRO Group

What is it with search engines? First it was Google who is building a driverless car. Now the Chinese search engine Baidu testing autonomous cars in California. There are enough people worrying about the millions of drivers who will lose jobs because of driverless cars whenever that happens.

That whenever seems to be happening sooner than we think. Finnish law does not require vehicles on public roads to have a driver. Helsinki has been seeing the trial runs of a driverless bus. Closer home in Singapore, driverless taxis made by the startup nuTonomy, were picking up and dropping astonished passengers in a small area earmarked for the trial. According to The Guardian, “Self-driving vehicle trials are also set to go ahead on public roads of the UK, including automated lorries on the M6, small public transport pods and driverless Volvo SUVs in London.” Japan plans to try out robot taxis this year and commercialize them by 2020.A Greek town is testing driverless buses on actual roads. Australia is planning its first trials of driverless buses in Perth. Just the other day what seemed like science fiction is brewing like an impending tsunami. It is everywhere.

The Digital Tsunami
It is not just drivers whose jobs will change, mutate or disappear. With fewer road accidents happening, the demand for auto insurance, doctors and hospitals will get muted. Uber is the most popular ride hailing app in 108 countries. If people do not need to buy cars, what happens to those who are employed by automobile manufacturers? Maybe some new jobs will get created? Certainly new laws will have to be written. We have to decide if driverless cars will be held to higher standards than human drivers in case of an accident. What happens during the time when the cars driven by humans outnumber the driverless cars? Already ethicists are being brought in to work with driverless car design teams. While being an autonomous vehicle ethicist may be a new job created, the ratio of jobs lost in the digital tsunami.

One Million A Month
Driverless CarA million a month. Yes, that is how many jobs India needs to add. It is the fastest growing major economy. So where is the problem? Two out three Indian are under thirty-five. Several of them are qualified and yet employers will worry about not having enough to choose from.

Human beings have turned to technology to ease the burden of work. We fight it at first and then technology becomes invisible and then we depend on it ever more. A few years back, the lifts in buildings used to have lift operators. When the self-service lifts were introduced, there was resistance. Today the number of building that still employ lift operators is down to a trickle. Some erstwhile lift operators picked up the skills of troubleshooting mechanical issues and seamlessly moved into the new jobs. Those who did not adapt fell behind.

The twelve million new jobs that will need to be created to absorb the youth of the country will mostly require working with machines and technology. That in turn will change the rules of employability.

Rapid Skill Obsolescence
The half-life of knowledge is the amount of time that has to elapse before half of the knowledge in a particular area is superseded or shown to be untrue. The increasing number of sensors gathering data has resulted in an explosion of data. 90 per cent of the data in the world today has been created in the last two years alone.

Technology will create jobs that have not existed before. As drones become commonplace, it will create a new set of jobs. Doctors will learn to work with artificial intelligence that is helping them become more effective at diagnosing diseases. Professor Ashok Goel teaches an online course called Knowledge Based Artificial Intelligence (KBAI) at Georgia Tech University. He used a computer program to serve as a Teaching Assistant to answer questions raised by students. The students did not even realize that their questions were not being answered by humans.

Jobs will have to be redefined to include the digital technologies. That needs a change in our educational system. Fighting skill obsolescence and not machines may be the way forward.

Originally published @

abhijitAbhijit Bhaduri works as the Chief Learning Officer for the Wipro group. He lives in Bangalore, India. Prior to this he led HR teams at Microsoft, PepsiCo, Colgate and Tata Steel and worked in India, SE Asia and US. He is on the Advisory Board of the prestigious program for Chief Learning Officers that is run by the Univ of Pennsylvania.

Join me on Twitter @AbhijitBhaduri

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