The Impact of Smart Machines on the Workforce

Ever since the industrial revolution, there are those among the working class who have held a fear of machines, and their potential to take away the jobs of humans. With the advent of the Internet of Things, connected smart machines have advanced to a stage where similar fears are resurfacing and some of them may be valid. Many are asking themselves, could a machine do their job? Perhaps the question that is much more appropriate, is whether machines will be taking jobs, in the near future?

What Do Industry Insiders Think About Smart Machines and Their Potential?

Smart machines that are connected to IoT infrastructure are becoming more common in every industry. Whether we look at automated checkouts at supermarkets, self-serve check-in machines at airports and train stations, or even ATM machines, we are seeing examples of how smart machines have, at least in some part, taken over functions previously performed by human workers. Does this mean that people would naturally be accepting of an automated, machine driven future? It’s possible, but not necessarily the case.

Gartner Research surveyed influential CEO’s in 2013, asking whether they considered that machines would be capable of taking over millions of jobs within the next 15 years. Surprisingly, 60% of these CEO’s said no, and referred to the situation as a ‘futurist fantasy’. (

Two years later, and we’re seeing more acceptance for the role that smart machines will play. The researchers at Gartner believe that machines will have a widespread and profound impact on the market, even as early as 2020. Gartner even predicts that due to the rising intelligence of machines, job losses will be present within highly skilled industries.

IBM’s Watson, an advanced artificial intelligence machine, is already working with doctors at UT MD Anderson, helping to provide treatment plans for Leukemia patients. The computer program can diagnose therapies based on genetic footprints, and it can do so in minutes, where it might take doctors weeks to devise similar treatment plans. Of course there is still room for error, but the technology is rapidly advancing, and has left some in the medical field, stunned. (

Impacts of a Machine Driven Future

It looks increasingly likely that smart machines and computer algorithms will disrupt traditional job markets in the near future. What does this mean for employers and for those in employment?

Gartner suggests that CIO’s, professionals, and executive stakeholders must begin to investigate smart machines today, for a number of reasons.

The adoption of smart machines and technologies will be key to competitiveness, by driving down costs and increasing efficiency.

Decision makers will need to investigate the impact on human resource. Likewise, professionals may need to diversify or seek other opportunities as they are forced to compete in machine driven industries.

The loss of human jobs will lead to social issues, union issues, and possible political fallout.


Are Smart Machines a Negative or Positive Trend?

While it is easy to view the loss of skilled and labor intensive jobs as a negative, there are also benefits to a future that is largely driven by a computerized and robotic workforce. Product prices may fall as companies are able to produce more efficiently, at lower cost. New jobs will also be created. Programmers and engineers will be in high demand, to design and maintain smart machines and infrastructure.

It is yet to be seen whether the analyst’s predictions will become reality. The evidence however, suggests that industries will need to adapt to smart machines and technology, even if it is on a small scale. Analyzing the risks and benefits should be a key strategy for any business that wants to be prepared for a future where machine procurement and implementation might be just as, or more important than talent recruitment is today.

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