Over the past couple of decades, work has changed irretrievably, mainly because of technology, and it is beginning to get to a stage that many jobs are being undertaken by robots or other forms of Artificial Intelligence (AI). The question is what are we to make of this? Should we allow Robots to take over our jobs, and if they do, what will be left for us to do with all the so-called spare time we will have?
We first have to remember that we are all made in God’s image to take care of His creation, the planet Earth. That is to say, to manage all the resources God has given us. Before Adam and Eve’s rebellion against God, work was fulfilling and enjoyable. After this rebellion it became tedious, but since the death and resurrection of Jesus, Christians are called to redeem our work and make it fulfilling again. Work often gives people their identity, but for Christians our identity is found in God, as His children. So, we should bring the teachings of God to our workplace, especially in terms of our character, in such areas as integrity and being joyous. But, we are also to seek God’s perspective on our work. This is where we really need to think about the ethics of any given area of employment – what sort of jobs should exist and how can we make them fulfilling. Now, for some people who carry out unskilled work, it will be boring, but for others they really enjoy the role. Maybe, such basic jobs could be undertaken by robots, so that semi-skilled and skilled work is done by humans.
To do that we need to encourage people through training to identify what skills they need to find a fulfilling job as I believe everyone should continuously seek to ‘grow’ in their ability to adapt to changing job market and to feel more ‘useful’. Employers also need to encourage the development of their staff, not just in skills, but seeing them as ‘whole’ people and pay accordingly. And because there is so much competition these days, businesses will have to identify niche markets to develop themselves. That is why we need a discussion of what sorts of businesses should be supported, and whether they are ethical, that is they provide a service or product that society really needs and is provided in a way which does not take advantage of anybody, and is transparent in its dealings. Hence, the importance, in the area of manufacturing, that products are environmentally-friendly and can be re-used, even it means recycling (circular economy – https://www.ellenmacarthurfoundation.org/circular-economy and http://learn.tearfund.org/en/resources/policy_and_research/sustainable_economics/the_circular_economy/ ) and they last a lifetime, so as to reduce the amount of waste we produce. For the resources of the Earth are finite, and never were meant to be over-used.
Another key area is to make customer service, whether to suppliers or to customers, a top priority; seeking to go the extra mile. Hence the importance in investing heavily in staff development at all levels, including the directors/managers. Having a really good experience with suppliers (at all levels), helps people to feel valued. This where the concept of a Relational Business comes into its own (http://relationalthinking.net/relational-business/), which may lead to a lifelong customer.
The taxation system needs to be linked to the benefits framework (see earlier blog on this), to help encourage creativity, responsibility, fulfilment and leadership.
So, in conclusion, robotics in themselves are possibly a good thing, but questions need to be asked whether they should take over semi-skilled and skilled work, which often needs a human touch, so we need guidelines as to how far this area should go. And at the same time to need to think about what sort of jobs should exist and how they can be made to be more meaningful.