FutureWire - futurism and emerging technology

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Off-Peopling: Tomorrow's Employment Challenge

Futurist Richard Samson of the EraNova Institute has written extensively about the future phenomenon of "off-peopling" for some time. Now, off-peopling has gained attention from the mainstream press.

Unlike outsourcing, in which jobs are shifted from high-wage earners to low-wage earners, jobs in an off-peopling scenario are shifted from humans to machines. Historically, jobs involving physical danger, monotony and backbreaking work are the ones to be off-peopled. Robots, for instance, don't get bored, don't complain, can be easily fixed if "injured", and can work round-the-clock if necessary.

However, Samson argues that off-peopling has begun to hit white-collar and professional positions. Ever used software that prepares your taxes or generates legal documents? If so, you've effectively off-peopled your tax advisor and attorney. As robots and computers become more sophisticated and interconnected, and can use complex reasoning in their tasks, they will displace more and more people who once thought their jobs were safe from such encroachment.

Does this mean that we'll all become idle? Hardly, says Samson; we'll simply have to be more creative in the ways that we approach our careers. Samson calls it the "hyper-human economy." Humans will still be required to perform the tasks that machines cannot -- namely, inventing and creating customer "experiences." Creativity will become the hallmark of a lucrative career, whether one continutally looks for new and better ways to satisfy customers or develops new ways to perform tasks.