Technological change has advanced digitalization and automation in a number of industries, raising fears that human workers will eventually become redundant. Recent studies predict that almost half of existing jobs are at risk of becoming extinct due to this process. But how grim are the prospects really for human workers? Hilmar Schneider discussed this topic in the recent edition of “Made In Germany,” a business program of Deutsche Welle TV.
Schneider pointed out that this pessimistic outlook is based on gross figures. It’s easy to see what gets destroyed by new technologies, but it’s hard to see the jobs that emerge, he said. “Imagine in 1995, when the Internet was starting up, someone having to predict what type of jobs would emerge within the next five years. No one would have been able to do that.” What we have learned from technological change in the past is that “people became wealthier, jobs became easier, and work did not disappear – it just changed.”
While low-skilled workers who perform primarily mechanical tasks can be replaced by robots, and computers can be used for anything that can be “coded,” humans remain superior to machines in all areas related to creativity and social interaction. “This is something that machines up to now – and probably also in the next couple of decades – will not be able to do,” predicted Schneider.
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