Last month, I attended the Association of Professional Executives (APEX) of the Public Service of Canada’s annual conference and heard Salim Ismail speak about Exponential Technologies and Exponential Organizations. It wasn’t a talk that I was expecting to hear but it put a lot of interesting and useful ideas that relate directly to careers and HR into perspective. Ismail started by explaining Moore’s Law.
Some Context about Exponential Technologies – Moore’s Law
In 1965, Gordon Moore made an important prediction. From careful observation of an emerging trend, Moore extrapolated that computing would dramatically increase in power, and decrease in relative cost, at an exponential pace. Basically, his ‘law’ showed how overall processing power for computers will double every two years … at the same cost.
The Moore’s Law curve (the yellow line in the diagram) has remained consistent for about 100 years. Once the doubling pattern starts it doesn’t really stop and it happens in various fields/domains.
Examples of Exponential Technologies and Industries
Experts are saying that over the next 18 to 30 months the same pattern will be in place in other fields or industries including:
- Artificial intelligence
- Applications involving blockchain technology (e.g., cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin)
- Autonomous vehicles
- Biotechnology (e.g., DNA sequencing)
- Energy, etc.
One example of an exponential technology is a robot called Baxter that costs $22,000 and does not require programming. It’s easy to see why Baxter and other automatons/machines like ATMs and food-and-beverage-ordering kiosks in fast food restaurants are gaining popularity. It’s also reasonable to assume that some employees will eventually be replaced by inexpensive robots who will always be punctual and never absent. Similarly, these robots will not have ‘human’ employee demands such as asking for pay raises, expectations for paid overtime, promotions, or seeking medical/health benefits or pensions.
Other Unexpected Changes
The impact of autonomous vehicles will also be far-reaching. These ‘driverless’ vehicles will change the transportation industry and conceivably affect the prevalence of taxis and Ubers. Other potential implications are that autonomous vehicles will most likely increase road capacity by 10 to 15 times (especially if some vehicles hover … ). In addition, there’s a fair chance that driverless automobiles will disrupt some real estate prices because commute times will be less important. Think about it … when drivers become passengers who can lean back and relax instead of stressing in jam-packed lanes … or even better when drivers can utilize their time to finish work during their commute suddenly the distance of a household from the workplace might become less relevant. (To some extent, we have already seen part of this shift with online shopping, online banking, and working from home.)
To add to this complexity, there will be changes in the insurance industry when companies like Volvo agree to assume liability for car accidents because there is limited/zero driver responsibility. No doubt there will be spin-off effects.
Link Between Exponential Technologies, HR, and Careers
By now you must be wondering what any of this has to do with human resources (HR) or careers. Well, the short answer is that at the moment, society is not entirely ready for this large-scale technological change. Corporate restructuring will be needed in many work environments (e.g., government, retail, healthcare, transportation, etc.). I don’t share these insights of a near-future world to trigger panic. Further, I do believe that many policymakers have an idea of what’s coming and are pilot-testing some solutions to make this transformation less detrimental to workers and citizens. For example, certain provincial governments are experimenting with guaranteed income supplements (possibly) because they expect significant unemployment on a larger scale. Most people would rather avoid long-term unemployment and dependence on a guaranteed income from the government. So naturally, this will mean careful and strategic career planning for people in the industries and fields that will be directly affected. Ideally, this planning will be proactive so that people can remain ahead of things, and not feel overwhelmed by something they thought was in the far distant future or not even a possibility.
In this technologically driven era, we are at an advantage because we have seen large societal changes before. We’ve experienced the insurgence of and total reliance on computers, cell phones, and other technology over the past decades. We’ve seen creative applications of technology become commonplace. Most of us have accepted these changes and we know that these technological advances will not go away. I would also assert that modern changes aren’t an epidemic that our society/businesses cannot handle. As a society, we are probably better equipped to adapt to exponential technologies because at least we can see change coming in ways that would have been impossible in the past. We have come to grasp that nothing in our industrialized world stays the same, and my goal is to make sure that my clients (individuals and organizations/businesses) are prepared and able to prosper as these exponential technologies are established.
If you’d like to discuss the impact of exponential technologies on your organization or your career, I invite you to contact me by email, phone, or via direct message on Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn.
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