Making jobs, not taking jobs...

Hanli Goncalves

MD - The Brand and Story Bureau (Pty) Ltd

I am always amazed by people’s reaction when one mentions 4IR or anything to do with new technology in conversation. Being very much involved with the 4th Industrial Revolution through our My Future 4.0 Summit and the impact it leaves in its wake on a daily basis, I find people’s opinions even more curious.

Are they afraid and sceptical as a result of mass hysteria and misinformation, or is it rather a lack of real knowledge and understanding that is driving this negative ostrich approach? People are concerned about losing jobs to AI and automation that they are not able to see the bigger picture of progress and inevitable evolution.

Historically, technological cycles evolve slowly over a prolonged time, the population gradually adapts to change, much like the toad in the pot over the fire. But not today. Right now, we are experiencing change at lightning speed; nothing is static, and the only constant is the state of flux. This brings about massive opportunity as people are able to reinvent themselves and their jobs and careers whenever they wish to do so.

Who would have thought that filming yourself unwrapping toys and playing with them could earn money? Yet Ryan Kaji, an 8-year-old boy living in Texas, earned $ 26 million in 2019 doing precisely that. A group of 5 friends called Dude Perfect, post videos of themselves performing stunts, and earned $ 20 million in 2019. An online game commentator called PewDiePie earned $13 million by commenting on other online gamers on his YouTube channel, he didn’t even play a game himself!

Online work-from-home sales opportunities are booming with platforms like Amazon, eBay, and ClickBank, where successful entrepreneurs can earn 7 figure incomes with virtually zero start up costs, and no stock problems through drop shipping and affiliate programmes.

Agreed, not everyone is going to make a success of a Youtube channel or a drop-shipping business, but the opportunity to rethink traditional employment and careers exists today more than ever before. New gaps in the market are popping up daily, and those who can think outside the box and pre-empt these will find success.

Think of the digital marketing space; 10 years ago, no one advertised on social media. Today, the annual global digital marketing spend is larger than the combined TV marketing and print media spend; globally $ 560 billion was spent on marketing and advertising in 2019, of which roughly $ 333,25 billion was spent on digital marketing.

This trend will continue and is creating a plethora of new opportunities for people to create and manage content. Anyone with a good eye and access to a computer, can go online and learn digital marketing skills, and run an online business with very low start up costs. In the past, you would have needed to study graphic design and have marketing experience to be able to entice a clientele, but technology has levelled the playing field and has created opportunity for anyone willing to put in the time and effort it takes to run and manage campaigns with a host of easy to use software.

I visited a wine farm in Stellenbosch a few months ago and was so excited to learn how they had automated their entire farm, without any employee losing a job! Management rather spent money on helping every individual upskill themselves to remain relevant withing the organisation. Labourers are now in charge of technical data management and control. They are able to analyse soil conditions and vineyard growth without the physical toil of the past, and enjoy a more satisfying job experience, with better outputs for the farm, and increased productivity and profits for the farm.

I found their approach to be innovative and inspiring, and the owner-manager told me they were intent on making jobs and not taking jobs. This I believe is the true impact of 4IR, and the only way to dissuade the public of a dark ulterior outcome, is by continually spotlighting the opportunities it created. 4IR is not a choice, it is not something a country a group of people can choose to ignore or avoid; it is a reality, and it is here. How we embrace it, however, is a choice, and I choose to see the wonder and excitement the future holds.