By Alex Sarlin, Enterprise Learning Lead
In the film “Hidden Figures,” African-American mathematician Dorothy Vaughan, played by Octavia Spencer, watches with curiosity as the first IBM computers are installed at her workplace- NASA’s Langley Center- in 1962. Her interest piqued, she ‘borrows’ a FORTRAN book from the whites-only section of the local library and quickly learns that the new machines can perform 24,000 calculations a second.
Dorothy recognizes the implications of this new technology for her own position and of those of her fellow “computers” – mathematicians hired by NASA to perform and check complex calculations – and decides that she will adapt to the wave of technological change. She instructs her coworkers to put down their calculators and start programming, ultimately saving many of their jobs.
If only all workplaces had such prescient learning and development leaders.
We’re now sixty years out from the Space Race; we carry the computing-power equivalent of many early IBMs in our pockets. Nonetheless, automation, computing, and the information economy are still having outsized and unpredictable effects on the job market – perhaps more than ever.
Whole industries are threatened by automation and technological change, and others are springing into existence virtually overnight. The type of efficient, targeted, and comprehensive workforce retraining that Dorothy Vaughn initiated now has its own buzzword – “upskilling” – and it’s more or less required to keep up with the economy-wide automation trend.
At Coursera, we bring together data from many different sources to anticipate future workforce training needs. Over 23 million learners from across the world have registered for courses on our platform, and more than half of them say they looking to advance their careers; that’s more than 10 million votes on the direction of the future. We talk to learning and development leaders, government agencies, and university faculty who are involved in building new and innovative technology. We also bring together research and resources from top universities, thought leaders, and consultancies.
With that in mind, we wanted to share a handful of resources that we have found particularly useful in informing our perspective on the future of automation in the workplace. We hope this list helps you look into the next few decades and prepare for the changes to come as Dorothy Vaughan did – with purpose, confidence, and enthusiasm.
Books about Automation and the Future of Work
- Rise of the Robots: Technology and the Threat of a Jobless Future
- Author Martin Ford discusses the impending threat of both blue- and white-collar jobs due to the rise of technology and automation in a huge variety of fields.
- Industries of the Future
- Author Alec Ross describes six major trends and their consequences in detail: robotics, genomics, cybersecurity, cryptocurrencies, big data and the distribution of innovation.
- The Future of the Professions: How Technology Will Transform the Work of Human Experts
- Authors Richard and Daniel Susskind focus on the future impact of automation and technology on the professions- medicine, law, finance and education- and predict radical large-scale change.
- The Second Machine Age: Work, Progress, and Prosperity in a Time of Brilliant Technologies
- Famed futurists Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee of MIT discuss the results of the exponential growth of data and computing power and how this will both create and destroy millions of jobs.
- Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow
- Israeli historian and professor Yuval Noah Harari foresees a future in which humans have increasingly god-like powers over their genetics, their environments and their relationships. Harari predicts that artificial intelligence will engender a ‘useless class’ of workers with no discernible employment value to society.
- Humans Need Not Apply: A Guide to Wealth and Work in the Age of Artificial Intelligence
- Silicon Valley veteran Jerry Kaplan provides an inside look at the past and future of artificial intelligence and its growing impact on economic inequality and work.
Books on Education and Training
- Reskilling America: Learning to Labor in the Twenty-first Century
- Sociologists Katherine Newman and Hella Winston detail the changes in the workforce from the educational perspective, explaining how some of the vocational training models used in Europe may be employed in the U.S. to maintain a future-proof workforce.
- Beyond the Skills Gap: Preparing College Students for Life and Work
- Professors and Researchers Matthew Hora, Ross Benbow and Amanda Oleson delve into the complexity of defining and addressing what is known as the ‘skills gap,’ especially with regards to soft skills that employers cite as highly needed. Their
- Why Good People Can’t Get Jobs: The Skills Gap and What Companies Can Do About It
- Wharton (and Coursera) professor Peter Cappelli argues that employment mismatches largely stem from employers’ inability or unwillingness to train and compensate employees effectively, rather than the speed of technological change.
- Stretch: How to Future-Proof Yourself for Tomorrow’s Workplace
- Workplace researchers and futurists Karie Willyerd and Barbara Mistick provide a hands-on guide for those looking to understand and prepare for the future of work.
Reports on the Future Workforce, the Skills of the Future and Automation
- A Future That Works (McKinsey)
- The Future of Employment: How Susceptible are Jobs to Computerisation (Oxford)
- Technology at Work 2.0 (Oxford)
- Future of the Workforce (Deloitte)
- The Growing Importance of Social Skills in the Labor Market (Harvard/NBER)
- The Future of Jobs: Employment, skills, and workforce strategy for the fourth Industrial Revolution (World Economic Forum)
- Leveling Up: How to Win in the Skills Economy (Payscale)
- Report on the Cybersecurity Skills Gap (Indeed)
- Automation and Anxiety (Economist, July 2016)
To learn more about Coursera for Business, contact us.