Pandora’s box, algorithms and the future of work and jobs.

In Greek myth, Pandora’s box was a divine gift, which on opening released strife, care, pride, hatred and despair into the world. The last thing remaining inside the box was hope.

Pandora was created to be curious and the urge to open the box overcame her. Zeus knew that her curiosity meant that she could not stop herself from opening the box, especially when he had told her that she must not do so.

Our curiosity has brought us to where we are today, with a wide range of tools at our fingertips, in the midst of a digital revolution, which connects us all.

As always, threat and opportunity stand side by side before us. Yet with hope and wisdom helping us to manage our choices, we have never had more opportunity to deal with the strife, care, pride, hatred and despair of the world.

But the opportunities come with challenges.

By working together, the challenges can be managed if we are able to move forward from the attitudes of the 20thCentury world of conflict, separation and disconnection into a joined up, shared value and collaborative world.

And that competition between old world thinking and new world opportunity is being played out every day, in forums and meeting places across the planet.

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Vision trumps leadership every time. No vision = No leadership. So who is steering the “ship of state”?

You can’t have leadership without vision. Leadership implies direction…that you know where you are going, and that you are going somewhere definite. And that is increasingly difficult for anybody to claim in today’s disrupted world. For any country.

How do you successfully lead a government, a team or an organisation through an environment of constant change, with challenges coming from everywhere?

And who are our leaders in this new environment? Where are our leaders? Do they even exist?

Politicians. CEOs. Pontiffs. Mayors. Chancellors. Generals?

In a disruptive environment, politicians aren’t actually leaders. They become managers. Managers of today’s problem. The immediate. Getting elected. The television interview. Remaining elected. The sound bite. Shooting from the hip. Reactive.

Not visionaries at all. Just managers. Itch scratchers.

Most CEOs aren’t leaders either. They are managers also. Managers of the next quarter bottom line. The board meeting. Institutional conformity. Groupthink. Risk aversion. Managers of yesterday. Not visionaries either.

You can’t have real leadership without vision and given all the disruption of the operational environment today, nobody has a clue where they are going.

It’s blundership not leadership.

Best guest. Lick a finger and hold it in the wind. Or read a horoscope.

In fact when you get right down to it, real leadership is as rare as unicorn s$%t, regardless of all the leadership courses that abound across the world.

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The most important issue we face as a society.

We are moving from a world of separation and disconnection into a joined up and collaborative world. Slowly.

The technologies of communication, connection and collaboration are connecting up individuals, companies, regions and even countries. Slowly.

Interconnection offers an additional power to the “power of one”. It offers the power of “shared value”.

If you are not familiar with shared value, watch Michael Porter, Harvard Business School – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jesEa_-Pgp8

Professor Porter has been promoting the concept of shared value since 2011, and the lights are finally going on.

What role should business have in society? In a joined up world, business can no longer just do its old thing. It has to do a new thing. It has to accept, contribute to and reinforce its place in support of every healthy and connected region, state, country and society. To help fix things. To find better ways to do things. To differentiate. To do strategy. And to make profit.

Together we can fix anything, by doing things differently. Because through connectivity, we can magnify and multiply the “power of one”.

We can transform disconnection into interconnection, separation into collaboration, and selfishness into sharing. The digital revolution is joining everything up. We just need to align our minds and our actions with the new opportunity.

Every day, there is ever more connection, collaboration and integration of devices and networks, and ultimately the human beings that use them. Us.

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Who are the “best of breed” manufacturers and services in Australia?

We’d like to know. And buyers across the planet would like to know too.

There are over 5,400 Australian businesses showcased in the RED Toolbox – https://theredtoolbox.org already but we would like to add more. So if you have a product or service that is “best of breed”, let us know and we will add your product or service to the database. And to the showcase.

The showcase in the RED Toolbox is the only shop window to the world for Australian products and services from all the states of Australia, and regularly receives visits from all over searching for anything and everything, at any time of the day or night.

It is easy to use – “3 clicks’ to find anything. But the more great Australian businesses we can include in the showcase, the more useful it is to exporters, importers, wholesalers, trade shows and events.

Visitors to the showcase come direct or through Google, as the result of a name search, or as result of a product search.

Visits come from event organisations searching for businesses to invite to trade shows, international conventions and exhibitions.

Visitors mainly search agriculture and food, regions, services, aerospace, machinery, medical, events and contacts. But every sector gets investigated.

So in response to visitor activity we are going to provide more search options, so those who want it simple can have it. And those who want more segmentation can have that too.

This is the practical area of the RED Toolbox.

Search and find. Showcase and engage.

But Groups in the Collaboration section of the RED Toolbox get just as much action from visitors as the showcase. For different reasons.

Collaboration. Updates. News. Sharing of ideas.

And this is another area we are now ready to expand and grow. The evolution of the RED Toolbox is organic, human, and more akin to gardening than architecture.

To see what Groups there are already, just sign up (free) and explore.

Groups are organised by sector, export, regions, issues, projects and events. So if you want to join a group you can. You may have to ask.

And if you want to start a group you can (small fee) – see the About page – https://theredtoolbox.org/index.php/about.

The objective here is to create your group and place it in the correct category, so that you can invite people into your group, but also participate in other groups within your chosen category – region, sector, issue, project or event.

“Virtual clusters”. So the benefits of being in a particular region can be optimised though sharing and networking between groups. Or the benefits of being in a common sector can be extended across regions, states and borders. Or the benefits of networking between sectors can be optimised as well. Across Australia.

We all have something to share. So businesses can use their group to focus on what they do, what they make, what service they can offer, and then use the umbrella groups as meeting places for broader discussion and sharing.

Community and privacy. The best of both worlds. And once you are signed up, all group updates come to you by email. Post and go. Share and go. We are all busy.

Making the best use of the platform needs consideration and a bit of effort, but not much. And by bringing leading businesses together into a collaborative framework, new things can happen, new relationships can be formed and the limitations of distance and politics we face in our huge brown land can be overcome.

We don’t have to be “ratshit at collaboration”.

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9 issues still to address in 2018. So let’s do something.

Time to revisit a blog I posted in early 2018. What has changed?

Not much. We still face the same issues.

They are all connected, but usually people talk about these issues separately as though they have nothing to do with each other. Which is a problem of course. Because they are all connected in some way.

We still have a jobs issue.

There are not enough jobs, and not enough well paying jobs. The “new” well paying jobs are only available to people with rare skills.

But there are an ever-increasing number of low wage, contract, part time and “slave class” jobs. And there is deliberate fudging of the employment and underemployment figures for political comfort.

Real unemployment and underemployment in Australia is still near to 20% of the workforce, which is a big issue. Thank goodness that Roy Morgan is doing a good job at keeping the record straight. Unemployment and underemployment is 19.3% or 2.59 million people looking for work or for more work.

We still have an education issue.

We are educating for the disappearing world. And parents are a major contributor to this problem.

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What do Goldilocks and the 3 bears have to do with digital disruption and jobs?

The 3 bears have something to teach us about digital disruption and jobs.

If you remember, the story has examples of things that Goldilocks tried and tested until she made the right choice – too hot, too cold, too hard, too soft, too big, too small and then just right. All in the house of a Daddy bear, Mummy bear and Baby bear.

Should government be putting taxpayer money into big businesses (Daddy bear), startups (Baby bear) or scaleups (Mummy bear) to create jobs?

The government is planning to invest money in big businesses through tax cuts.

Big businesses don’t employ new people. The people are already there. Big businesses already grew. During the growth phase they employed new people. Sometimes lots of them. But that phase is finished.

And once a big business has been a big business for a few years, everything is about sustainability and maintenance…maintaining everything that allowed the business to get big in the first place. No innovation. Just more of the same.

Somebody leaves. They are replaced. New technology comes in that makes the business more efficient. People are made redundant.

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The digital “job destruction” jungle has arrived. How do we get through it successfully?

A while back, we conducted 50,000 surveys of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) adoption and use by small to medium businesses and not for profits. We mapped 19 industry sectors and 480 business categories in depth, and then created workshops to help organisations understand which technologies would be useful and why.

The results provided a gateway for helping organisations better understand what ICT could do for them. How it could help improve communication, increase productivity, insight, information sharing and collaboration – all the things we now take for granted.

We surveyed which products and services were being used. We queried how these were “rated” by users, and what sources of help, information and advice on technology, respondents relied on.

Which was very interesting. Results were not necessarily those you might expect.

For instance, government sources of help, information and advice rated far lower than all other sources in every survey we conducted. By a huge margin.

And the digital revolution rolls on. Ever increasing connection, collaboration and integration of technology continue to change the landscape. Providing many opportunities beyond just the use of ICT in individual businesses.

And we now see that a relatively few large multinationals have grown to dominate and leverage this ever-connecting digital landscape in ways that many did not expect.

Opportunity for many has now morphed into threat for many. And Cambridge Analytica is just one example of what can happen when data is collected, aggregated and re-identified for vested interest. There are many others.

And it is unclear whether this can be reversed.

In reaction to this changing landscape, we reviewed our database and mapped for each industry sector and each business category, a picture of how twenty-three new technologies are now threatening Australian organisations.

Challenging jobs, businesses and even whole industry sectors and regions.

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Banks? Boards? Corruption? Well, surprise, surprise.

We face a few issues at the moment.

They are all connected, but usually people talk about these issues separately as though they have nothing to do with each other. Which is a problem of course. Because they are all connected in some way.

We have a corrupt banking issue.

The Royal Commission has opened a can of worms. Horrible, slimy, wriggling worms with no conscience, respect or integrity. And banks used to be about integrity, trust and respect. Not any more.

Industrial banking has taken the place of integrity, trust and respect – designed to remove any suggestion of humanity from the bank-customer relationship and replace it with automated processes.

And then the banks run advertisements claiming the opposite – suggesting that banks are human too.

“The Banks belong to you”, “Your world, your way”, “You spoke, we listened”, “More than money”, “Help is who we are”

Not true. Fake news in fact.

These statements are about the banks of forty years ago, back in the good old days when bank managers managed.

And the people they do insert into the customer relationship, the financial advisors, mortgage brokers and insurance agents are all motivated with one objective – “how can I take this person for a ride?”

So what went wrong? Chairpersons and boards went wrong.

We have a board issue

Boards don’t work. Boards are stacked with the wrong people. They are stacked with people who don’t understand shareholder value, but think they do, people who are not capable of governing with real knowledge and understanding of the new operational environment.

People prepared to manipulate short-term goals, strategies and financial reports for “short term benefit” (keep up to speed with the Royal Commission on banking) and destroy long-term, shareholder value in the process (trust, integrity, brand and possibly even existence).

Is that in the best interest of shareholders? Of course not.

This has been coming a long time.

Boards across the world are stacked with people who don’t understand the world has changed. And continues to change. Boards are stacked with dinosaurs stuck in 20th century thinking, incapable of seeing or understanding the revolution happening right in front of their eyes.

There is a digital revolution going on and technology companies apart, board directors and chairpersons don’t have a clue.

Because, the digital revolution is joining everything up. Connecting people to information. Connecting people to each other and integrating functionality. Threatening the status quo.

And changing business models as it goes. Changing attitudes as it goes. Changing perception and reality.

Creating shared value. Professor Michael Porter spoke about this shift to shared value in 2011, shortly after the GFC, explaining that CEOs, boards and directors needed to understand shared value.

That shared value wasn’t corporate social responsibility. That corporate social responsibility was dead and gone.

That creating shared value was integral to competing, essential to profit maximisation and positioned a business within society and the economy as a powerful force for addressing problems, not outside of society paying lip service by “doing good”.

All board members should read what Michael Porter has to say on this issue, because it is a clear expression of the new role that businesses have to play in a digitally disrupted world. Or blockchain and AI will eat your lunch.

We have a morality issue

And the digital revolution exposes it.

The digital revolution joins everything up. Supports collaboration. Builds cooperative alliances. This suits some people. But it doesn’t suit others. So the old world pushes back against the new world.

But it isn’t the old world pushing back…it is individuals that still live in that world, full of selfishness, greed, amoral, immoral, sociopaths and psychopaths.

We have always had them. They are just more exposed to sunlight today than they ever were before.

They don’t understand the digital revolution either. It does not align with their thinking.

They see command and control, where others see collaboration and shared value and consensus.

And that is the dilemma.

The new opportunities are boundless. On the one hand, collaboration, sharing and cooperation at a worldwide level.

On the other hand, different versions of centralised command and control a la 1984.

The revolution generates a conflict of attitudes. And a conflict of choices.

But it is then about decisions. And we’ve been there before.

Cigarettes are an example we all understand. In the 1960’s and the 1970’s when the evidence become widely known, it quickly become clear that cigarette companies were going to fight to the death to protect profit over all other considerations..

Yet, even today, 50 years on, how can anybody work for a tobacco company, knowing that the product kills? It is only the separation of time and impact that allows this to happen. If the results were immediate, then cigarettes would be illegal.

But people still work in tobacco companies. And somehow separate in their minds the connection between the product and the result.

They separate the evidence from the fiction in their brains. And go home every day believing they’ve done a good job.

“Not everyone will die of emphysema or lung cancer”. “Cigarettes are legal.” “They are not addictive.”

And so it goes.

In an increasingly connected world, we can still operate with disconnected personalities and compartmentalised beliefs.

But, the digital revolution pushes constantly towards connection and community – common unity, sharing and consensus.

Who would have thought that boards and banks would join the lowest ranks of the untrustworthy – along with politicians, journalists, and estate agents, as people who can no longer be trusted?

What a topsy-turvy world we live in.

Once trust and integrity are lost, it is a long road back to respectability again. Regardless of the desperate advertising messages banks pay a lot of money to disseminate.

“The banks belong to you”, “Your world, your way”, “You spoke, we listened”, “More than money”, “Help is who we are”

Yeah, sure. Tell me that again, when the board is completely replaced with new directors and I might believe you. We can all dream.

We have a jobs issue.

Real unemployment and underemployment in Australia is near to 20% of the workforce, which is a big issue. Thank goodness that Roy Morgan is doing a good job at keeping the record straight.

Unemployment and underemployment is 18.9% or 2.5 million people looking for work or for more work.

And the continuing shift across all industry sectors from full time employment to contract, part time, freelance and occasional is just building up a problem for tomorrow, that we will have to face.

We have an education issue.

We are educating for the disappearing world. Parents are a major contributor to this problem. They haven’t yet woken up to the “changing nature of work” and continue to support school curricula based on their own historic school experience.

Traditional jobs and workplaces are seriously challenged by digital disruption. AI, robotisation, IoT, VR, AR, blockchain, remote sensing, 3D Printing, cyber-security, drones, nanotechnology, big data, cloud services, BIM, cryptocurrency, election manipulation, identity management, social media, Amazon, eBay, Alibaba, Uber, airbnb and Fake News all impact Australian businesses in different ways.

We must first clarify which workplaces will survive and what a job will become, then we may be able to create a curriculum that delivers for the new world.

We have a skills issue

Digital disruption is affecting all industries and business categories, but it particularly impacts individuals – all of whom have differing capabilities and skills. Not everybody is good at Maths and Science or English (brain). Some people have strong design skills (eye), some people have strong practical trade skills (hand). Some people have a mix of those skills. Some people have no skills. We have to support all of them.

We have an inequality issue – the 1%

Given that 8 men now own the same wealth as half the world’s population, or the top 10% of the population now own 85% of the world’s wealth, we are creating a condition that is toxic, explosive and dangerous.

And we did this. Not God. Not Mother Nature. Us. Human beings. In fact our politicians did this.

Big businesses and the super rich dodge taxes, using their power to influence politics and drive down wages. And 1 in 10 people survive on less than $2 a day. So it is up to us to fix the problem. There is a lot that can be done. We just need to do it.

We have a “response” issue

For us to be happy in hindsight (2030), we can’t just let the ”day to day” happen to us passively. We must manage this revolution sensibly starting now. It is a real revolution and its effects are broader and further reaching than we might have expected. And it’s happening everywhere, all at the same time.

We have to act with vision and purpose. Collaboratively.

At the Commonwealth Games Trade Events on the Gold Coast that I attended, there was a common theme.

Collaboration. The word was part of everyone’s presentation. It was acknowledged that collaboration was difficult, but every presenter stated that we just had to do it.

Which is why we created the RED Toolbox to help with that issue – https://theredtoolbox.org , as a national collaboration platform for regions, sectors, export, issues and ideas.

We have to collaborate to address the jobs issue, the inequality issue, the leadership issue, the skills issue, the education issue, the corruption issue, the board issue and indeed every issue.

It is only through collective wisdom and collaborative action that we can succeed.

If we just let change happen to us, then we accept an even wilder jungle to live in. That seems to be our current strategy (if you can call it that). Manage the change with intelligence and we can establish a new “digital agriculture” – generating new wealth and farming new value.

Can we do it? Yes, we can.

We managed the shift to food security over 12,000 years ago, moving from hunter gathering to farming. With benefits for all.

We now need to do the same thing with technology, moving from “leave it to the market” to “manage it or rue the consequences”.

So here’s an idea.

Let’s work together. Collaborate.

First, those that understand what is happening (which is thousands of digital consultants, systems integrators and others) need to try even harder to inform and warn students, parents, CEOs, boards, businesses, not-for-profits and government about the big digital picture issues.

Not the technology. But what changes as a result of the technology. That is what the revolution is all about. The threat to jobs in finance, wholesale, administrative services, retail and professional services.

Soon to be followed by more job loss in rental and real estate, media and communications, manufacturing and in a few years, transport. And then the rest.

Everybody needs to be clear on the real impacts of digital disruption.

Understand why, what, where and when, and the threat becomes a challenge that can be managed. Ignore it and you don’t deserve reinsurance at the end of the year. You are gone.

Second, we have to spread risk more broadly, and build capacity and resilience through increased export and value adding.

While the digital revolution destroys jobs, we need to use the positive aspects of technology to enhance our productive industries – agriculture, creative industries, defence, ICT, manufacturing, medical and health, METS, smart trades and waste management.

Build on the one hand, while destruction happens on the other. We can’t stop digital disruption and destruction, but we can modify the impacts and use the technology to enhance productive industry.

We need to increase the volume of exports through creating more channels to markets in more countries. And we need to add value to every good and service that goes out the door – through design, branding and advertising. We have the skills and the brains to do this. We have just grown lazy, relying on exporting dirt, meat and wheat.

The export groups in the RED Toolbox are designed to support this. The India-Australia groups allow Australian and Indian businesses to engage directly – “export on trainer wheels”. With more and different countries to follow.

Third, we need to change the national conversation.

To move from fear, uncertainty and doubt (FUD) = do nothing or follow what other countries do, to leading the way with courage, curiosity and “let’s give it a go”.

Move the conversation from “me, my, mine” to collaboration.

Federal Government has created a national collaboration framework of 52 RDAs, and we have a national collaboration platform – RED Toolbox offering a way to join everything up. Businesses now just need to get actively engaged with export, training and begin to connect and collaborate with their peers.

Many businesses are frightened of the idea. “They will steal my IP.”

We have to recognise that we are in competition with the world out there, not with ourselves. Other countries are connecting and collaborating at a gazillion miles an hour – right culture, right leadership, right investment and right motivation. We cannot afford to be left behind.

And finally, we have to share example of success. Use the networks and groups we have to share, explain, inspire and copy. The world will continue to change and we have to become even more agile, responsive and collaborative to stay up with the pack.

Collectively we can manage the challenges. And if we really collaborate, we can do more than just manage, we can leverage the challenges to benefit our resource rich country regardless of politics, banks, fake news and board directors.

They are just an excuse. We have plenty of real innovation to carry us through. Let’s do it.

The good and bad sides of the digital revolution

The digital revolution continues to challenge the societies we live in. For better or worse. Connecting us to information and each other, fostering community and collaboration, but at the same time destroying jobs, and capturing personal data for manipulation, propaganda and control.

You want to win an election? Shift attention like a matador? Feed the gullible? Well, now you can.

This is where we now live. In a polarised world. Both good and bad. Brokered by Email, SMS. Google. Facebook. Instagram. Twitter and the rest.

The digital revolution is reshaping the world at a scale never seen before and everyone is involved. Spooks. Politicians. Criminals. Gangsters. Corporates. Businesses. Individuals and organisations of all kinds.

Digital disruption is remorseless and destructive, and is predicted to eliminate 50% of jobs during the next twenty years.

Over twenty technologies and vendors of various kinds ranging through 5G, Blockchain, IoT, AI, Robots, Drones, VR, AR, BIM, GPS, satellites, Digital ID, 3D printing, nanotech, cloud services, Amazon, Google, Uber, Freelancer, Airbnb and so on are causing this affect, all knocking on the front door at the same time.

Some are knocking louder than others, some are knocking together and some want to come in right now.

New jobs are being created, but the combined effect of these technologies is net job destruction and replacement, not by other jobs, but by software in various forms. Human effort replaced by software.

The signs are there. The evidence is everywhere.

Politicians don’t understand it and they don’t like this disruption happening on their watch. Job loss and disruption is bad news for politicians.

So they deny it. Deliver platitudes. Talk about something else. Manipulate the facts. They fudge the figures = standard operating practice for politicians. They worry about their short term future = the next election, and do nothing useful about the longer term implications of what is steadily becoming inevitable.

Across the planet.

In Australia, unemployment and underemployment is 20% already in 2018, with ever more people moving to contracts, self employment, part time, freelance, occasional and Centrelink.

So what can we do about this?

The technologies are here. The genies won’t go back in the bottle and they all have big teeth.

We can’t stop them. But with careful consideration, we can get them working for us not against us, soften the impacts and manage the change.

For which, we need to do two things.

One, understand what is causing the disruption, which sectors and categories are threatened by which technologies, which sectors are safer than others, why it is happening, when it is happening, what new skills may help and what the upside is, if any.

Two, act accordingly.

Clarity offers options. Options offer control of destiny. We are then able to make wiser decisions.

And we need to recognise and understand the interconnected fact of digital technology. “1”s and “0’s”. Wires and wireless.

It all joins up. Social. Economic. Environmental. Political. Ethical. Personal.

Which creates a new range of interconnections, challenging silo thinking, “frogs in wells” and the “narrow thinking”, “my job” way we view the world we live in.

In a joined up, interconnected world – which we now inhabit – we need joined up, interconnected thinking that doesn’t stop at the door, the fence or even the border and you won’t find that in any government or corporate “department”, ministerial department or any of the small cupboards we live our lives within.

“It’s more than my jobs worth”. “It’s not our core business”. “It’s none of my business.” And so on.

Of course, not everyone is blind to new interconnected opportunities.

The data generated from connection is being harvested for good and for bad as well. Cambridge Analytics are only doing what the spooks have been doing for years. Along with Google, Facebook and any large organisation with lots of data.

Blockchain may be our protection against this misuse of personal data. We’ll see.

But the digital revolution continues and the disruption rolls on.

There are roughly 2.3 million organisations in Australia, employing over 12 million people.

About 2.4 million people are currently unemployed or underemployed looking for work or more work, with a lot more destined to join them because of digital disruption and job loss.

We usefully divide businesses and other organisations into 19 different industry sectors in Australia, though not all the 500 or so ANZSIC business categories fit comfortably into those divisions

And disruptive technology affects just about every one of the 2.3 million organisations and every individual in some way.

Technologies are tools. Each technology enhances or extends existing human capabilities in some way, our senses, our brain and our body.

It’s the same in our businesses and organisations. Technology automates processes and activities within an organisation to increase efficiency, productivity and effectiveness. We are now getting particularly good at this.

As mentioned, over twenty technologies and vendors of various kinds ranging through 5G, Blockchain, IoT, AI, Robots, Drones, VR, AR, BIM, GPS, satellites, Digital ID, 3D printing, cloud services, Amazon, Google, Uber, Freelancer, Airbnb and so on are now helping to enhance or replace humans in some way.

This can be in a practical process or activity (hand), design activity (eye) or a thinking activity (brain). If it can be automated it will be.

And processes and activities that are repetitive offer the best, short-term opportunity for automation and replacement.

We have all witnessed the impacts of robotisation on manufacturing. And mining. We are now beginning to see the impact of robotisation on other sectors, such as wholesale and agriculture with different results.

Over time, the wholesale industry will lose jobs. Agriculture will gain jobs.

Wholesale can be fully automated. Box shifting. For as long as humans are cheaper than robots the transition will be postponed. And an interim step will be making humans “act like robots” with wrist controllers managing activity in the warehouse, measuring efficiency, comparing workers and replacing workers not up to target with new workers.

Cyborgs. Who can and will be fully replaced by robots once the cost benefit merits the decision. Wholesale employs just over half a million people in Australia.

Each disruptive technology affects sectors and categories in different ways.

But it is in the service industries that process and activity automation in its latest incarnation (AI) will hit hardest and soonest. Jobs in rental and real estate, administrative services, finance and insurance, professional services and public administration are all under threat.

Which adds up to about 5 million people challenged by one technology.

As a principle, “Middle person” jobs can and will be replaced by Artificial Intelligence (AI). It’s just a matter of time. Any person who sits between you and a vendor without adding significant value will be replaced with technology.

Financial advice, mortgage advice and insurance advice from AI is already far more reliable, fair, balanced and trustworthy than advice from human advisors who look after their vested interests first, not yours.

The Royal Commission into banking and insurance is providing lots of examples of vested interest, manipulation and corruption. These advisors are ripe for replacement.

The same is true in rental and real estate. Replacement.

These “middle person” jobs will be replaced by AI, better able to manage the real interests of buyers and sellers, not the interests of the agent – the “middle person”, who is only interested in listings and quick sales = commission, no matter what they might say to your face.

But the real estate industry is cushioned for now. For in Australia, the interests of News Ltd and Fairfax, who own Realestate.com and Domain support an industry that is effectively a “dead man walking”.  For now.

None will give up their commercial advantage willingly. But they are fighting a rearguard action that will ultimately end in defeat.

As you can appreciate there is a lot to gain and a lot to lose in this disruptive transition.

Jobs will continue to steadily disappear. The speed at which they do will be a result of the struggle between the old world and the new. Between vested interest and innovation.

Over 2 million people are employed in the three levels of public administration in Australia, paid for by taxes.

They produce nothing. All politicians talk about the need to reduce “red tape” but they never do. A wide range of existing and new technologies could reduce the size of the public service tomorrow, but this is unlikely to happen.

For obvious reasons. Campbell Newman tried in Queensland and lost the next election. Political expediency protects the public service for now. Until the money runs out and treasury can no longer cover the payroll.

Because it all joins up, and a steadily decreasing workforce generates less tax.

So it is hardly the time to be giving tax breaks to big business in Australia. We need all the tax income we can get.

Some industry sectors include a mixture of safe and threatened business categories.

Administrative services and professional services have categories in both camps.

Where creativity, experience and insight are important to a business category and the category deals with a workflow of unique challenges eg engineering, veterinary, architecture, design and surveying – the category is safe.

Where processes can be automated easily eg legal services, accounting and taxation processing, clerical services and employment services, the category is under threat.

We estimate from our 50,000 surveys across all categories and sectors, that 9 of the 19 industry sectors are seriously challenged with another 2 partially challenged. And those 11 sectors are the major employing sectors, representing about 5-6 million jobs.

Now, not all those jobs will disappear. And those jobs are not all under threat tomorrow. But threat is on the way.

This is the scale of the issue that we face. It is a big deal.

Some sectors are better off than others.

Construction is one of those. We have a huge investment in brick, stone and wooden houses in Australia, all of which need renovation, fixing and improving from time to time. And construction employs a lot of people. Over a million.

Agriculture is another interesting sector in Australia, dominated by “mum and dad farmers” (93%). And technology continues to enhance the sector not threaten it.

The main threat to “mum and dad farmers” is not appreciating the value of the data they gather on their farms. Especially if added to the data from the farm next door, and all the farms in the valley and the region.

Farmers have to collaborate to capture, own and manage data for their individual and collective interests, and not allow it to be captured, aggregated and used by a farm management system, cloud provider for its interests.

Agricultural data will become increasingly valuable as we witness the impacts of climate change on the oceans, rivers, estuaries, farms, properties and regions across the country.

Working with their industry associations, farmers need to collectively own and manage this data for themselves, their children, grandchildren and the towns and regions they live in. Then farmers will be able to manage future threats to work and jobs, and leverage new opportunities sustainably.

The retail industry in Australia is challenged from outside, by Amazon and a growing range of other online retailers.

The only safe space in retail is in “fresh” fruit and vegetables, fish and meat, convenience = local or fast delivery, big things and specialisation. The battle between commodity retailers (anything in a box) and online retailers has only just begun.

We have mapped the impacts of over 20 technologies on 484 business categories and the results vary widely in timing, the degree of protection by vested interests and existing business relationships, and room to pivot, adapt and change.

These are the business categories that we are including in the ED Toolbox for students, teachers and parents, to help them make wiser decisions about the future. “What do I want to do when I leave school or university?”

Understanding the digitally disrupted world of work and jobs makes answering that question a lot easier.

That’s the passive picture. If we just let it happen to us. If we just react as things happen.

But what if we act positively and with vision? Now.

What if we have a plan?

What if we build a wider foundation of productive industries in Australia?

What if we increase value in these productive industries? How do we add value? How do we increase exports and profitability?

Because, we don’t have to just let the digital revolution happen TO us. We can use the digital tools to make it happen FOR us.

We are blessed with a wide range of productive industries in Australia that we have barely begun to work on – agriculture, arts and recreation, information media and communications, education and manufacturing as well as medical and health, mining services, waste management, defence, smart trades and some professional services.

Each of these sectors and categories represents an opportunity to add value, through better matching of R&D with production, through design, through branding and advertising.

We have become good at shipping “dirt, meat and wheat” out the door. Now we have to get good at adding value. Matching R&D with business. Branding. Exporting.

There are always opportunities to increase exports from Australia.

We have the “brain power”. And we have plenty of resources to add value to. Manufacturers, producers and services with world class capability.

We just need the focus and the willpower.

These R&D and creative industry jobs = STEAM are what we need to invest in as a nation to create a more resilient, better paid and sustainable environment for us, our kids and grandkids to work in.

Not push them towards the lower paid, no future, replaceable jobs in retail, personal services and health and social assistance services.

Or mislead them into industry sectors and categories that are about to change forever because of digital disruption.

We have to invest in productive industries, building a range of new branded, products and services for the world.

Connect Australian businesses with others in other countries to grow trade.

The India-Australia groups for energy, water, environment, manufacturing, smart cities, agricultural and food and METS in the RED Toolbox –  https://theredtoolbox.org are places where Australian and Indian businesses, councils, states and other organisations can discuss trade and opportunity.

It can be done.

Vision. Decision. And off we go.

The tools are there for us to do it.

But not everybody is ready, willing or able to change.

This issue is beyond politics. And politicians are ill informed, slow and ill placed to do much about these issues, tied to the election cycle as they are.

Leadership will have to come from individuals, businesses, local and state government, utilities, corporates and other organisations willing to act.

Vision and decision.

Even today, access to reliable, affordable, high-speed connectivity (the foundation for a digital future) is a problem in our country. It is available in the cities and suburbs (mostly), but not across every remote, regional and rural area of our land. Through lack of vision and decision, we have created a second class.

Through lack of vision and decision, we are talking about giving the most profitable companies in our country tax breaks, when we should be investing that money in supporting productive industries.

The challenge to Australia and the world is from the disruptive technologies that will impact every industry sector.

We know what they are. We know what they are doing.

Other countries around the world are responding faster than we are.

But very few of them have the richness in assets and resources that we have to work with. So we have no excuse.

Vision and decision. Partnership and action.

Become a RED Toolbox partner and collectively, let’s see what we can do.

“Jobs lost, jobs gained? Don’t’ worry, it’s ok”. Well, it’s not ok.

On reading the McKinsey “Jobs lost, jobs gained” report again, it is easy to see how traditional economists just don’t understand what is happening re the jobs impacts of digital disruption.

Throughout the report, the McKinsey team continually reach back into history for reasons why the current changes will be just like before.

Which is “Maginot line” thinking.

Because, new technology nearly always changes the apparent learnings from history.

Before the second world war, Guderian and a few others understood that the tank and the “jerry can” (the ability to refuel reliably on the run) would change everything supposedly learned from the fixed line, trench warfare, catastrophe of the first world war.

His thinking was not accepted by his superiors, so he went ahead and proved them wrong anyway. And the Maginot line – the result of all the French General staff learnings from the first world war proved irrelevant. Wrong place. The battle was fought elsewhere.

It was the same with the machine gun before the first world war. Cavalry and infantry proved useless against knee height scythes of bullets. The new automated technology created radical change in the operational environment = the battlefield, and everything supposedly learned from history proved irrelevant. New conditions.

And here we are today, with the “old school” not understanding what the “new school” understands only too well. The economists versus the technologists.

Economists just don’t understand that robots REPLACE, that software REPLACES, that automation REPLACES not displaces.

Economists yearn for the familiar. It is unfortunate that we live in an age of disruption that is not just hard to understand, but hard to see in its impacts and effects. “1”s and “0”s delivering change across wires and wireless, operating like termites in a traditional Australian weatherboard house.

Nothing seems to be happening, until the house falls down.

Technologists deal with digital disruption every day. Economists just use the results of their actions – smart phones, tablets and PCs.

Wages growth?

Almost 20% unemployment and underemployment!

Household debt!

Productivity?

They all join up, but they are being misinterpreted by folk who do not understand what is fundamentally causing the change. Even the Reserve Bank governor and his board are mystified as to why the economy isn’t following the rules.

The continual impacts of robotisation, software and automation push down wages, push up underemployment and unemployment, increase household debt and increase productivity.

But we are still measuring the wrong things. Using out dated methodologies, broken philosophical arguments (economics) and looking to the past for clues about both the present and the future.

We don’t seem to have a clue about what is happening right now, let alone what is coming down the highway towards us.

“Ten thousand, high-speed, solar powered, steamrollers” in the form of VR, AR, AI, robots, IoT, blockchain, drones, satellites, BIM, cyborgs, 3D printing, nanotechnology, BI and all the associated changes they bring with them.

Kids, parents and teachers…are you ready to deal with this?

I don’ t think so.

You have been taught the wrong things for a time that now only exists in memory.

This is a new world. And we live in a different time with a different set of rules that are still being defined.

The changes caused by digital disruption across all industry sectors and all business categories are as radical as the “black death” of medieval times. The “black death” very quickly created a condition of scarcity in workforce.

It didn’t just kill millions of people it caused enormous changes in social conditions, disrupting the feudal system irreversibly.

The digital revolution is very quickly creating a condition of abundance in workforce. It is unlikely to kill millions of people, but it will cause enormous changes in social conditions, disrupting the economic system irreversibly.

Because abundance is a bad thing if we can’t manage it productively.

Which at the moment, we can’t. What do we do with a third of the working population when they are unable to find employment?

And not just here. That abundance of the unemployed and underemployed is happening across the planet, caused by the impact of the same technologies.

We are witnessing a time that is very different from the shifting of the workforce from land to factory (industrial revolution), or from factories to services = displacement.

We are now witnessing replacement, and as a society we are being challenged by what we are going to do with the new abundance – too many people, and not enough work.

The future of work and jobs is a big issue.

And we are not ready for it.

First we have to understand why it is happening. The technologists understand this. The economists don’t.

But who do the politicians listen to? The wrong group.

We live in a strange time when governments don’t listen to scientists and technologists as openly or as often as they should.

Second, we have to map the impacts of these technological change agents (high speed, solar powered, steam rollers – VR, AR, AI, robots, IoT, blockchain, drones, satellites, BIM, cyborgs, 3D printing, nanotechnology, BI etc) against the current operational environment.

Workers are being impacted by digital disruption every day.

And so are the businesses and not-for-profits they work in.

Students are being taught subjects fit for the 20th century, not the 21st century. And they are not being given informed advice about the current and near future status of work and jobs.

And people are concerned. Students, parents, teachers and grandparents as well.

I post on the future of work and jobs regularly. These posts get four times more likes, comments and shares than any other subject, with comments from countries across the planet saying, “It’s the same here”, which you would expect, because the causes are the same.

It’s the same robots, the same software and the same technology creating the same impacts.

In some countries the government response is considered and informed. But overall, the threat is universal as is the new opportunity. Because there are many opportunities on offer, but only if the environmental change is managed intelligently.

We have a choice. Between a jungle and a farm. Unmanaged or managed. Same market forces (seeds, earth, water, air, sunlight, competition) – but one is managed the other isn’t.

We don’t leave agriculture to nature. We manage it to our advantage.

It is time to do the same thing with our societies. In the past we didn’t have the tools. Today, we do. Blockchain is a good example.

It is now time for our politicians and CEOs and boards to wake up to exactly what tools they now have at their disposal and use them productively.

It is time for the politicians and CEOs and boards to listen to the technologists not the economists.

I called somebody in the Queensland Department of Education yesterday to discuss how we might be able to help, by using our 50,000 survey results to highlight exactly where each new technology would impact on each industry sector and every one of the 500 individual business categories in Australia.

Knowing this would help students, teachers and parents make wiser decisions about their future. And make wiser decisions about which subjects to study and which subjects might lead to work and a job.

Or which subjects might best lead to the opportunity to start a business. Or collaborate with other students to do something under their own steam.

Because a “safe” decision to become a lawyer, knowing that every contract of every kind in the world would soon become an automated “smart contract” on blockchain and replace the bread and butter work for every law firm, might be influenced accordingly – ie “not so safe”.

That’s just one example.

And there are many others for each of the 500 business categories and their associated jobs. And knowing how technology is changing the environment is useful information.

Was the advisor in the Department of Education interested? No. She was too busy.

Being too busy isn’t unique to people in the Department of Education. These days everybody is far too busy. But far too busy with what?

It seems that everybody is so busy with next quarter’s bottom line, or their KPIs, or impending role review that nobody has time to consider the future. Even CEOs and boards, for whom this should be “job one”.

Because, no clear view of the future = no business, no CEO, no board and no future.

There are some very big companies in Australia in this condition right now.

So I wasn’t too surprised about the response from the Department of Education.

It’s a big department and all the people have more important things to do working on education for the 20th century, than to wonder what education for the 21st century might look like.

So to add to the RED Toolbox – https://theredtoolbox.org – we have started building the “ED Toolbox for schools, and teachers and parents”. Regardless of the Queensland Department of Education.

“Too busy right now”, is just another example of Maginot line thinking.

It’s understandable. Most people don’t like change. Most people don’t like revolutions. But revolutions do come along occasionally and then it’s “bend or break”.

To avoid too many breakages, we need to share information and insight as widely as possible, so people can consider their destinies wisely.

And we need to plan for the future, based on what we now know. Which means making time to think and consider, not being too busy.

For that will ultimately lead to new school and university curricula based on that knowledge.

To match real demand and supply.

To stimulate imagination and dreaming.

To encourage entrepreneurship in schools and universities.

20% of students in entrepreneurship programs will later start their own business = 5 times the general population.

Lots of people are talking about innovation.

We are even starting to do something about innovation.

But we need to do more.

For we will need lots of natural innovators, discovers and explorers, which is where all children start out.

Until the system squeezes it out of them.

We need to introduce lots more school based, innovation programs with prizes for real world innovation. They do exist, but we need lots more of them in all schools.

Encourage students to visit low-income regions to learn about social entrepreneurship.

Encourage them to engage with the “wicked problems” food, climate change, extinction, war, disease, pollution and inequality. Set them the biggest challenges, not the smallest.

Because disruptive change is happening and it is happening faster than most realise. And the impacts of change are being camouflaged.

Is unemployment 5.5% or 9.1%? Does underemployment (10.2%) hide the real impact of digital disruption on jobs? Yes, of course it does.

Is the current level of household debt a litmus test? Yes, of course it is.

If 47% of jobs are due to disappear because of robotisation, computerisation and automation, then what?

It is not enough to just ask that question, we have to do something about it. “She’ll be right, mate” isn’t an appropriate response this time around. This is not displacement this is REPLACEMENT.

Which one or more of these technologies – AI, robotisation, IoT, VR, AR, blockchain, biometrics, mobile apps, remote sensing, 3D printing, cyber-security, drones, nanotechnology, big data, cloud services, BIM, cryptocurrency, identity management, facial recognition, social media, Amazon, eBay, Alibaba, Uber and the rest – is going to sweep you away?

It shouldn’t be guesswork. You should know.

And which one of these technologies can you surf to success?

Threat comes with opportunity, as always.

So students, parent and teachers need to understand what is happening. Understand why.

Understand what is needed to adapt. Understand what options exist already, what skills might be needed and where to get them.

For this time around, not everybody will easily find a chair in this remorseless new game of musical chairs.

The unskilled, the wrongly skilled, the unabled, the disadvantaged, the excluded and the people already living on the streets.

There will be a lot more people living on the streets and in cars. And we don’t want that.

For not everyone is fitted to play the new technology game successfully.

Not everyone can be trained to play the technology game.

What do we do about the third of the workforce who don’t fit into our current jobs and work environment?

They will be angry. They will be depressed. They will be upset.

Big question.

And that is the subject for another post.

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