While technology critics argue that human jobs are being eliminated by workplace automation, minimizing the need for human interaction, Matthew McKean, Adjunct Research Professor, Department of History, Carleton University, says another way to see it is that emerging tech is increasing our capacity to focus our collective energies on the social, cultural, ethical and emotional demands of our rapidly changing world. 

McKean believes automation creates new opportunities to privilege, value and grow human interaction, soft skills and our mutual understanding of and appreciation for people. Everything from smart phones to smart cities are freeing us up to care more for others and to commit more resources to transforming the parts of our societies and economies where need and inequities persist.

Supporting the well-being of Canadians

Canada began long ago to shift away from manufacturing in favour of a service-based economy. Service industries represent more than 70% of Canada’s gross domestic product (GDP) and this share will only increase over time.

The implication, then, is that the country’s present and future depend very much on our ability to understand and meet the needs of people. This means investing in the research, education and skills training opportunities that support the well-being of Canadians. 

Emotional labour is key to growth

Studies of employers, human resources staff and job databases have shown steadily growing demand over the past 35 years for soft skills, social skills or what one writer for Aeon magazine recently called “emotional labour.” 

In economic terms, these skills are the key to productivity and growth in the service industries. Which is why the time and money that technology saves us must be reinvested — in cultivating, contextualizing, communicating with and caring for people.

If we under-invest in the research and training that support the development of social, emotional and communication skills in relentless pursuit of research commercialization or bigger and better robots, we’ll miss the crucial opportunity that new technology affords us. Canada might up end making better things, not making things better.

Source: The Conversation