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Making workers relevant for tomorrow’s business

Elon Musk: Artificial intelligence is our biggest existential threat

Pierre Nanterme, CEO of Accenture: “Digital is the main reason just over half of the companies on the Fortune 500 have
disappeared since the year 2000.”

Technology always elicited diametrically opposite reactions in the masses - from the times of Archimedes to
Michelangelo to now - and 2018 is no different. However, the applause and the brickbats for new technological
developments, usually shrill and relatively muted, have reached a crescendo of sorts, what with the much anticipated
arrival of the 4th Industrial Revolution (4IR) (a unique parallel development of technologies like AI, Robotics,
Biotechnology, Nano technology, Quantum Computing, Automation, 3D printing et al. that will synergize and spawn a
new industrial era). There is a fear that millions of workers across industries and nations, will lose jobs or become
redundant, leading to massive economic, social and political uncertainly and strife. Without getting paranoid or fearful
like Mr. Musk, it can certainly be stated that the quantum of change will be humungous and that it’s not a matter of if
this will happen, but when?

There is no escaping the fact that we are not talking of some distant dystopian future - change is here, it is all around us-
we all have a Mobile phone in pockets faster than the computer which put man on the moon, 3D printers can print
everything from teeth to jewels to houses, AI can predict whatever you want - seasons, outcomes of elections, winners
of derby races , interpret human emotion and language , sometimes better than humans; driver-less cars are already
there, bots and algorithms are all ready to render white and blue collar workers irrelevant.
Suffice to say, if a lot of people are caught unawares, which is likely, there will be widespread social upheavals. With the
4IR upon us, do we have much time to stay in the hunt for being a developedeconomy and actually avail the much
spoken of “Demographic Dividend”? The Indian Industry and worker needs to embrace change and make sure she is well
prepared for it, ready to ride the high tide , rather than be swept aside.

As Klaus Shwabb, Chairman of World Economic Forum, has said “At the heart of his analysis is the conviction that the
Fourth Industrial Revolution is within the control of all of us as long as we are able to collaborate across geographies,
sectors and disciplines to grasp the opportunities it presents”. So, what can be done to proactively address the
situation? Some suggestions-

1. The Employee and the worker

 If you can’t fight them, join them: The common employee needs to accept that change is a reality. With this
acknowledgement, starts the need to reskill
 Basic skills to learn for everyone: IT skills, increasing comfort with technology relevant to your work area,
improving team skills and Emotional Quotient
 Be open to lifelong learning: gone are the days when you passed up your whole career on knowledge acquired
at College, Learn about imminent technology changes in your sector/field
 Be open to different modes of engagement: employee, free lancers/consultant, fulltime, part-time, Gig economy

2. The Progressive organization

 Make peace withtechnology rather than fight it. Better organizations will embrace technology sooner
 IT and product heads need to ensure technology and automation are adopted early, else the organization may
well collapse soon, as mentioned by Mr. Nanterme of Accenture
 Learning and development are not catchwords anymore. Upskilling current employees on changes in technology
and making them relevant for the future is intuitive

3. The Government and academicians/Skill Development agencies

 Skills Future Singapore (SSG) has launched training programmes in eight priority and emerging skills areas to
help equip working adults with the skills required across different sectors. India needs to be proactive in its
approach in a similar way.
 As is gaining traction in some countries now, the focus on STEM curriculums, must shift to become STREAMD –
Science, Technology, Robotics, Engineering, Arts, Maths and Design- curriculum changes to be made at School
and Graduate levels
 Providing access to knowledge resources to everyone and funding the training for those who cannot afford it
 Encourage Industry to get involved with Education/Skill Development and help predict the dynamic nature of
jobs.

Nobel prize winning Economist Paul Krugman in his recent trip to India said that AI could upset the Indian growth
applecart and may result in mass unemployment. It will take concerted efforts, will and action on part of Government
and Industry to ensure our manpower is not only re-tooled and upskilled but also thrives in the 4IR era. In huge
problems, usually lie huge opportunities.