Andrew McAfee studies how technology affects business and society — more specifically, how computerization will impact our workforce and economy. In his TED Talk, the principal research scientist at MIT Sloan's Center for Digital Business explains how robots will take our jobs, why that's not necessarily a bad thing and what we can do to prepare our society for "technological unemployment." While radical to some, McAfee's arguments are important consideration for any workforce participant — especially HR leaders, whose work is closely tied to the future of the jobs economy.
Watch the video below and read more for three key takeaways from his talk.
"There is going to be more and more technology and fewer and fewer jobs."
According to McAfee, the world of technological unemployment is at hand. Our cars will soon drive themselves, which means fewer truck drivers. We'll hook Siri up to supercomputer IBM Watson, eliminating most of the work done by customer service reps. And we're already developing machines to replace human warehouse pickers. So, what to do next?
"[We have] the chance to imagine an entirely different kind of society."
The answer is not to run and hide — it's to celebrate. McAfee says that technological unemployment is the best economic news on the planet for two reasons. First, the progression of technology is creating "abundance": more products at higher volume and quality, but lower prices. And second, it frees humanity to stop working and to start innovating, creating and thinking.
"We're going. . . to chart a good course into the challenging, abundant economy that we're creating."
McAfee acknowledges that this flourishing, creative and enlightened society does not come without its challenges. Not everyone has access to the resources of the world's elite philosophers, artists, businesspeople or diplomats — and without work, the lower and middle classes will struggle. However, McAfee points to the promise of education and the fact that the challenges of a "technological" society are increasingly public. He ends his talk on a promising note: If we pay attention to the plain facts before us, we can thrive in the future world of work.
Photo: TED Talks