By Dean Whittaker

As I prepare to give a presentation at the Westchester County Association conference titled “Westchester County of Tomorrow,” I have pondered the future a great deal. They asked me to speak on the trends and their impact on their area.

So, I began by reading several books on the future. Books like “The Industries of the Future” by Alec Ross, “The Rise of the Robots” by Martin Ford, “The Second Machine Age” by Eric Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee, “Abundance” by Pert H. Diamandis and Steve Kotler, “What Technology Wants” by Kevin Kelley, and “Future Smart” by James Canton.

After reading all of this material, I became increasingly concerned for our future. My concern is our willingness to anticipate change rather than wait to try to adapt to it. I also realized that, to me as a baby-boomer, it feels like a revolution is coming, but to my seventh-grade mentee, Andrew, it is a continued evolution of technology. My other concern is the exponential rate of change in which we overestimate the early impact of technology (i.e. think flying car) and grossly underestimate the long-term impact (i.e. think Internet)

Five industries of the future that are growing at an exponential rate are: Genetics, Robotics, the Internet of Things, Big Data, and Cyber Security. Of these sectors, robots will likely have the largest impact on economic development in terms of work and the jobs this work creates. It is estimated that robots will displace 15 million workers by 2025. Artificial intelligence enables robots to see, understand, and make decisions mimicking human thought through deep learning using neural networks.

Technology pundits like Elon Musk and Steven Hawkins have both raised the alarm of the dangers we are creating in the development of artificial intelligence. Elon Musk recently funded a non-profit think tank with $10 million to study the issue. Meanwhile, Google, under the leadership of Ray Kurzwell, is charging full steam ahead.

On a more positive note, Manpower CEO, Jonas Prising, talked about the opportunities surrounding “The Fourth Industrial” revolution at the World Economic Forum. Manpower, the world’s largest HR consultancy offers a solution. He feels companies should use the concept of learnability, therefore, getting more people into iterative training to allow staff to go to work and take time out for training and then return to the company.

Mr. Prising feels that this continuous learning will aid in retention and skilling-up the company’s workforce, particularly with digital skills. He advocates, and I agree, the need is for life-long learning. He says that technology will enhance some jobs and not eliminate as many as some predict provided that companies are willing to take the strain off of the educational system and invest in their workforce.