Hamish Fletcher

Business reporter for the NZ Herald

Futurist predicts jobs loss

DaVinci Institute founder says action needed as 2 billion roles will go in digitised world.

Thomas Frey will speak at the Creative Innovation 2012 Asia Pacific conference in Melbourne. Photo / Supplied
Thomas Frey will speak at the Creative Innovation 2012 Asia Pacific conference in Melbourne. Photo / Supplied

More than two billion jobs are set to disappear from existence by 2030, says a futurist who will soon touch down in this part of the world.

DaVinci Institute founder Thomas Frey believes that as societies accelerate out of the past into a new digitised future, many jobs are being automated out of existence.

"That's not intended to be a doom and gloom scenario, it's intended to be a wake up call," Frey told the Herald this week.

"We have to create new industries, new jobs at a faster rate than ever before. We don't currently have the systems in place to create an additional 2 billion jobs in the next 18 years, so we need to get on the ball and do that," he said.

The former IBM engineer has been a futurist - someone who tries to methodically map out and predict what the future could hold - for more than a decade.

Techniques for Frey's future-gazing include monitoring about 600 cycles the world is going through and keeping track of demographic shifts.

Frey said his aim was to get businesses focused on what could happen in the next five to 10 years, so they can make better decisions in the present.

So what does the futurist think the future holds?

"It's going to be incredibly exciting but for a lot of people it's going to be tremendously disruptive," he said.

Frey believed technology like 3-D printers - which allow the creation of solid objects from a digital model or file - would have huge impacts on the likes of the clothing industry.

"If you think of sometime in the future walking into a retail store and having your body scanned in and a printer right next to that could print out a perfect fitting piece of clothing for you, shoes as well ... your entire wardrobe suddenly matches perfectly with your body," he said.

Frey said businesses needed to factor in all of these "driving forces of the future" or risk being "blind-sided" by new technology.

Frey is due to give a presentation on some of these topics at the Creative Innovation 2012 Asia Pacific conference in Melbourne at the end of this month.

Another speaker at the event is Google's chief technology advocate, Michael T. Jones, who spends most of his time explaining the implications of technology to Governments around the world.

While people are using the internet as a tool for hosting and spreading information, Jones said it would soon become a network to teach skills.

"If you wondered what's in a certain chemical compound, what its properties are, you can do a Google search and quickly get an answer to that, and you know you can get an answer to that," Jones said.

"But if you wanted to know [how] to do a certain dance step or how to play the flute or how to do a heart-bypass operation, you wouldn't just expect to be able to type that in and be suddenly taking a university-level course and emerge a few days, maybe a few years later with a certificate [in that skill]," he said.

"You just wouldn't expect to be able to do that and I believe in just a few years time you will expect to do that."

What is a futurist?

* Someone who tries to methodically map out and predict what the future could hold.

* Techniques include monitoring cycles the world is going through and keeping track of demographic shifts.

- NZ Herald

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