The Rise of the Robots – Martin Ford (2015) – And its Likely Impact on Future Employment Trends in the Energy Sector

Martin Ford compares the rise of artificial intelligence to the expansion of the electricity grid in the early 20th century. We will see that artificial intelligence will creap into every nook and cranny in our life. The energy industry is no exception to all of this, as we have seen that drones are now used in monitoring of transmission networks, and smart metering used to collect customer data.

1. Artificial Intelligence and its impact on professional work undertaken in the energy sector

Of particular relevance for the energy industry is a shift where employees are needed, caused by changing circumstances in which energy firms operate. There will be a shift what skills employees need to succeed in the energy industry. It will be less about the job title and specific work streams and more about abilities, there will be less emphasis on skills on more on ability. So training should emphasize not function but  versatility. We should think in terms of what robots cannot do and three main areas stand out: work that relies heavily on human interactions, work that require dexterity and mobility, and work creative work.

The energy industry is particularily vulnerable to this, because it lends itself to data analysis because so much data can be collected through smart metering. Compared to the telecommunications sector, the energy industry is still years behind. Employees in the energy field are in frequently not well prepared for the new economy and the challenges that digitalization brings with it. It is pivotal to understand what work will be needed. As stated, there will be a shift away from bureaucratic jobs toward jobs that require constant readjustments to your work environment and tasks you do every day.

2. What makes information technology different

Martin Ford argues that information technology is in many ways very different from technological upheaval in the past. When we look at professions, and the effect technology has had on them in the past, then one sees that there was not much change happening to the activity performed. For example, accountants applied their skills using excel spreadsheets but the job function was an integral part of any organization. That is likely to change, because computer algorithms replace the activity itself. Although many new jobs will be created requiring analytical and organizational abilities, the amount of new jobs requiring more advanced skill sets will not equate to the number of jobs being lost.

3. What can be done to address this problem

To address this technological dilemma effectively, the energy industry should invest in continuous development of their employees, in the context of their existing job profile. Technical skills will be invaluable, and one’s ability to sell to people and interact with them in an intercultural context absolutely critical.

If you wish to learn more about these trends and how they will shape the world of tomorrow, please read Martin Ford’s book: Rise of the Robots.

4. References:

Ford, M. 2015, The Rise of the Robots: Technology and the Threat of Mass Unemployment, Basic Books, New York.

Many thanks for the shared interest in the energy world!


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