At a recent economic development conference, attendees heard from Technology Futurist Jack Shaw, who provided a glimpse into the rapidly changing technology world. Technology has advanced so fast that many of us cannot fathom what will happen in the next few years. Not in 20 or 30 years but in three, five, and 10 years. Many of us have heard of the coming changes but brushed those ideas aside because we thought it would only affect future generations. Wrong. Artificial Intelligence (AI) will transform most aspects of our life. Autonomous vehicles, replacement of routine tasks and jobs with automation and robotics are here and moving rapidly into the workplace. Shaw said two of the major impacts would come about as a result of 3D Printing Technology and Blockchain.
The 3D printers can be used to manufacture parts on demand at local facilities instead of having a large manufacturing facility. For example, parts for vehicles could be made at dealerships and auto repair shops. There will probably be a trend of smaller assembly plants and other supply chain impacts.
Blockchain is not to be confused with Bitcoin, which is a crypto-currency that is used to reduce the transaction charges and transaction time of cross-border transactions. Since Bitcoin was the first application of blockchain, people often inadvertently use “bitcoin” to mean blockchain.
Blockchain is the technology that allows digital information to be distributed but not copied. Some have described it as a “digital ledger” stored in a distributed network. A technology blogger explains: “Picture a spreadsheet that is duplicated thousands of times across a network of computers. Then imagine that this network is designed to regularly update this spreadsheet and you have a basic understanding of the blockchain.”
Blockchain is going to be used for more than just currency and transactions. Blockchain technology is emerging as a business focus in several industries including consumer products, financial services, healthcare, life sciences, and the public sector. Blockchain is the next big thing in commercial real estate. Real estate executives are finding that blockchain-based smart contracts can play a much larger role in their industry. Core operations will be utilized for property transactions like purchase, sale, financing, leasing, and management transactions. Other applications could be electronic medical records, design files, land titles, and one application with a huge impact: Blockchain based voting. Imagine if you could stay at home and vote on a protected system. What would happen if we had 80 percent voter turnout?
Robotics are transforming manufacturing processes and while reducing many lower paid jobs, they are increasing higher paid jobs. Our workforce is not ready. Will all of this change be a job taker or a job maker? That depends on the training and adaptation of all of us. The Alliance is pushing a STEAM curriculum beginning in elementary schools. The jobs of today and tomorrow require skills in science, technology, engineering, and math. We add “A” for the arts because creativity is vital in all of these fields. In a very progressive move, McNeese University is formulating a STEM College to prepare students for careers.
The changes created by rapid advancement in technology will greatly impact our entire workforce. I can’t conceive the changes my granddaughters, 11 and 7, will see in their lifetimes. The future is now and it’s exciting.