Jobs…Out with the Old, In with the New

My two delightful nephews are pretty busy kids. In addition to being great students, they play hockey, swim, are active as scouts, and take music lessons. Their latest interest, and one they will pursue at an upcoming March break camp at Brock University, is robotics. The week promises to deliver sessions that will involve the use of Lego to build and program intelligent robots that can sense and respond to their environment. Planned activities include building robot vehicles and designing theme park rides and animated characters. 

Despite what you may think, my nephews are not at all nerdy. It’s more a case of them being raised by parents who see value in being well-rounded and make it a priority.

What my sister and brother-in-law may not have fully realized is how their sons’ interest in robotics will ensure they are poised for growth in the up and coming industry of Bots. A bot (derived from ‘robot’) is an automated or semi-automated tool that carries out repetitive and mundane tasks. While that may initially have us thinking about things like robotic car washes or vacuum cleaners, the reality is that the future will be about far more complex machines.

According to futurists, nearly every physical task could conceivably be done by a robot at some point in the future. Bots could potentially replace soldiers, farmers, miners, inspectors, and fisherman.

This growing field is just one example of an area of job growth being predicted by futurists like Thomas Frey. On the other hand, he is also predicting that over 2 billion jobs (roughly 50% of all the jobs on the planet) will disappear by 2030.

Some may see that as a gloomy prediction but it should instead be viewed as a wakeup call illustrating how quickly our world is about to change. Of the industries that survive, few will be immune to the need to transform.

The power industry is another that will undergo drastic changes. Frey suggests power generation plants will begin to close down – even wind farms, natural gas, and bio-fuel generators. Manufacturing power generation units the size of air conditioners will go into full production and ultimately the entire national grid will be taken down to be replaced by micro-grid operations. 

Frey also anticipates driverless technology and vehicles that will allow you to kick back, listen to music, have a cup of coffee, connect to the Internet, make phone calls, and even watch a movie while you’re enroute. Most importantly it will increase our travel safety.

He also predicts major changes in education as the movement toward free and open source learning takes hold. OpenCourseWare, or OCW, is a term applied to course materials created by universities and shared freely with the world via the Internet. MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) now has over 2000 courses available and Apple’s iTunes U platform offers over 500,000 free lectures, courses, videos, books and other resources on thousands of subjects. College and university tuition is expensive and will need to be rethought in order to compete with “free”. Additionally, the shift will be toward learning rather than teaching and therefore it is coaching that will become more predominant.

Creation technology will also be something to watch.  One example gaining significant interest is that of 3D printers that shape objects through the process of building up layers of materials.  Three-dimensional printing will make it as cheap to create single items as it is to produce thousands of items. As such they will be undermining economies of scale as we know them. Frey suggests it may have as profound an impact on the world as the coming of the factory did during the Henry Ford era. Think what will happen if we are able to print our own clothes, shoes, and even construction materials.

As mind-boggling, exciting, and promising as this technology can be, it also has the potential to create new problems because it will be resisted by the many among us who don’t like change or who don’t have the skills and knowledge necessary for the higher demands this technology will place on the labour market. This means we will need to place an emphasis on upgrading our workforce to match the labour demand of the coming era.

But perhaps most importantly, we aren’t especially well-equipped culturally or emotionally to have this much technology enter our lives. That will demand a need for greater leisure literacy – meaning being able to manage our leisure time and make choices that are positive for both ourselves and the communities we live in. 

For today’s kids it will also mean we need to do more of what my sister and her husband are doing with their boys – nurturing their curiosity and creativity, ensuring a basic foundation of traditional learning, keeping them physically active and eating well so they will be healthy and fit, and teaching them about being good citizens. 

Posted on 02-12-12


Brenda, excellent article. Communities that accept that change is necessary and keep abreast of what is happening in the global marketplace, will be best positioned to attract both industry and people. Giving students the opportunity to explore and then empowering them to act on their ideas, is not only smart but very necessary - they are our future innovators!

•Posted by Trudy Parsons  on  02/17/12  at  11:25 AM


Excellent article.

•Posted by LiquidPrinter  on  10/08/13  at  04:10 AM


Dear Brenda, Such a great job done by you. you share good information with all of us. Thanks for that.

•Posted by Car vaccum Cleaner  on  10/16/13  at  01:15 AM


In the case of mobile, technology is driving the process. Communication has been completely reinvented. This is a huge shift and can have enormous benefits to product delivery.

•Posted by Andrew John  on  12/28/13  at  01:57 PM


Excellent article! We can’t even imagine what evolution will bring forth.

•Posted by Richard  on  02/26/14  at  05:38 AM


Great Article, Brenda!!
There is no doubt that Thomas Frey is one of great futurist speaker and the thing which I really liked about the article that you have wrote very closely observed futuristic things said by Frey and also its hard to imagine if the whole places of workers are taken by machines it may lead to a positive change or a negative impact to our future, nobody knows it.

•Posted by Angle Grinder  on  05/17/14  at  04:33 AM


Completely agree with the 3D printing concept. I think the change has already started and we are going to see some amazing changes over the next 10 years. If you are interested in 3D printing have a look at this site.

•Posted by BC  on  07/17/14  at  07:17 PM


I don’t know why people are upset that the types of jobs are changing. I’m happy they are. If this was a few hundred yaers ago I might be a blacksmith. I can’t wait for self-driving cars to get rid of taxi’s jobs, for example!

•Posted by Kevin Sweet  on  09/03/14  at  04:18 PM


Great Article Brenda,

Technology has left no limits, in the article where you talk about 3d printers making it cheaper to prototype buildings and products, it has even evolved till an extent where you can live visualize the structure of a building or idea of a product which you have in your mind. Not sure if you have heard of Oculus Rift or Unity.This software makes visualization real.

Keep sharing such great articles.


•Posted by bim modeling services  on  08/14/15  at  03:01 AM

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