A recent report by the CSIRO and other major institutions, claims that within the next 20 years 73% of jobs will be substantially impacted by automation and artificial intelligence. (To access the report, click here.)
It claims that traditional employment models will be changed through unstoppable social forces that will work hand in glove with the rise of automation and AI. These include our ageing population, shifts in our trading partners' economies and our own post-mining economy and the rise of the digital peer to peer marketplace. It refers to this last shift as a 'porous boundary' where employers will rely increasingly on freelance agents rather than a permanent workforce, which, in turn will lead to greater entrepreneurship.
The implications for us: The need for more training, newer and growing capabilities and the rise of digital literacy as an essential primary educational skill along with literacy and numeracy.
No doubt, there will be many advantages in these changes, but the thoughtful Christian may have many questions, for instance, at a societal level, thinking about the vulnerability these shifts will have on certain groups as well as on a personal level, learning to trust God through seasons of rapid change.
One question that is unlikely to arise is the impact these shifts will have on our concept of manual labour. Almost 60 years ago, John Murray wrote, "There is warrant for the judgment that economics, culture, morality and piety have suffered great havoc by failure to appreciate the nobility of manual labour." (Murray practiced what he preached by "retiring" to work a farm after a career as a professional theological academic.) Automation will no doubt lead to greater marketplace efficiencies, but at what cost? Not simply the disappearance of modes of manual work, but also a further cultural shift that reduces work to its marketplace value?
Let us hope that Christians are able to promote the flourishing of culture, which includes the promotion of all God-glorifying work as being noble, while also advancing the world in which we live through creativeness and innovation.