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The Year 2025, Intel Predicts the Future

Excerpt from Intel’s Whitepaper “The Future of Knowledge Work: An outlook on the changing nature of the work environment”:

The Future of Knowledge Work
An outlook on the changing nature of the work environment

The world is changing dramatically in ways that will have a significant impact on everyday life. By 2025 the explosion in world population, automobile ownership, and urbanization trends will make physical travel more complex and time consuming. In contrast, technology will continue to shrink, disappearing into the fabric of our life, eventually becoming so small that it will be embedded in our clothes and environment. Yet, even while technology increasingly disappears, the influence it has on each of us will increase dramatically fostered by cloud computing and massively expanded use of personal data. The intent of this paper is to identify trends likely to shape The Future of Work, and seed the reader with information and ideas to imagine the future that is rushing towards us.

Tim Hansen, Intel Corporation

The world is changing dramatically, both expanding and contracting in ways that will have a significant impact on everyday life. Old models of work already in flux will seemingly dissolve as new models rise in their place. People working in 2025 may view today’s work life as differently as we perceive the office life of the 1800’s. Technology will be a major force of change, but the agents of change will be the innovative knowledge workers who envision, articulate, and implement the technology.

Those companies that possess a clear vision for the unfolding trends have an unprecedented opportunity to excel in a dramatically different landscape. As we move toward the year 2025
there are forces at work which will have dramatic impact to the work landscape.

Compute So Small it is Everywhere


Computing power will evolve with Moore’s law, becoming so small that it will easily be stitched into the fabric of our lives (and our clothes) in a pervasive and engrained way. This will result in an explosion of devices that will mesh together. By 2020 it is estimated that there will be over 50 billion devices connected to the internet. In essence, we will be living inside a computing planet. Each person will access a myriad of devices on a daily basis, and cloud computing will enable these devices to intelligently communicate and collaborate. Imagine an automated message from home adding milk to the shopping list because the refrigerator recognized that the carton was almost empty.

More Congestion, Less Physical Mobility

In contrast to the shrinking of computing, there is an expected explosion in human population, urbanization and automobile ownership. The human population of 7 billion today is forecast to grow to 9.5 billion by 2050 with 75% of the world’s population expected to live in cities, and 50 of those cities having more than 10 million people. About one billion cars on the road worldwide today may grow to 4 billion by midcentury.

Intelwhitepaper2The amount of physical space we have will become ever more congested, and our ability to move physically from one location to another will become increasingly complex and time consuming. Without thoughtful intervention, commute times which are already significant in many cities around the world will rise. Strategies will be needed to address the negative health outcomes and overall decrease in life satisfaction that results from longer commute times.

There is a real opportunity for technology to ease the human burden in this regard. Solutions such as smart transportations systems, autonomous cars, and richer telecommuting options could all contribute to meaningful changes.

Emerging Geographies and Aging Populations Change the Workforce

Intelwhitepaper3Economic wealth is expected to shift over time from the west to the east with the growth of the world population. Educated knowledge workers from the east, especially China and India will
form an ever larger percentage of the available work force. Projections for the U.S. labor force indicate there could be 14.6 million new nonfarm payroll jobs created between 2008 and 2018, and assuming no major immigration changes, there will only be about 9.1 million workers to fill the positions. The basic issue in the U.S. is that there are fewer young people to replace the aging Baby Boomer generation. This will leave a gap of ~5.5 million workers. Europe is facing similar challenges.

Europe and the US will need to tap new and underutilized resources to fill knowledge worker jobs. These may include a greater percentage of mature workers, women, students, transient workers, and immigrants. Globally, businesses are likely to leverage a larger percentage of workers from varied sources including contract pools, academic collaborations, open innovation challenges and crowd-sourcing.

Intelwhitepaper4Workers on both ends of the age spectrum will increasingly be involved in the work force. According to the World Health Organization, mature workers will be physically capable of working into their mid to late 70’s 9. It is also likely that organizations will tap the energy, enthusiasm, and insight from bright high school and college-aged students. In the US this will translate into a social phenomenon not yet witnessed, five generations working side by side.

Knowledge Jobs Shape Work Opportunities

The shift in workforce demographics will also be influenced by a larger issue: the changing skill and knowledge levels needed to find and keep a job in an increasingly competitive global economy. Though there is still debate on the specific definition, knowledge work is generally seen as work that most leverages human intellect, creativity, and analytic skills. Trends are already indicating that a growing number of jobs will require a significantly more complex set of interdisciplinary skills such as problem solving, judgment, listening, data analysis, relationship building, collaborating and communicating with multinational co-workers. Knowledge jobs are growing two and a half times faster than transactional jobs which involve fewer conceptual duties, and knowledge workers represent the fastest growing talent pool in most organizations. Approximately 48 million of the 137+ million U.S. workers are knowledge workers. As a result of the expected impact of technological innovation, knowledge workers will have an unprecedented opportunity to shape the future and influence societal change.

Emerging Smart Systems Collaborate with People

While a growing percentage of the population shifts towards knowledge jobs, the rise of smart machines and systems will also make an impact. Society is “on the cusp of a major transformation in our relationship with our tools. In the next decade smart machines will enter offices, factories, and home in numbers we have never seen before. They will become integral to production, teaching, combat, medicine, security, and virtually every domain of our lives. As these machines replace humans in some tasks, and augment us in others, their largest impact may be less obvious: their very presence among us will force us to confront important questions. What are humans uniquely good at? What is our comparative advantage? And what is our place alongside these machines? We will have to rethink the content of our work and our work processes in response.”

There are already leading indicators of how these new smart systems will work. IBM’s Watson is one such example. In an ongoing collaboration with the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York, IBM is working with a team of Oncologists to teach Watson how to diagnose tumors and suggest treatments. “Watson can ingest more data in a day than any human could in a lifetime. It can read all of the world’s medical journals in less time than it takes a physician to drink a cup of coffee. All at once, it can peruse patient histories; keep an eye on the latest drug trials; stay appraised of the potency of new therapies; and hew closely to stateof-the-art guidelines that help doctors choose the best treatments.”

Watson is then able to suggest a range of potential treatments by confidence level which provides doctors with an effective tool to more efficiently help patients. Because systems like Watson can continually ingest an enormous amount of recent and relevant data, the system itself will outstrip a human’s ability to keep current with all relevant information.

It’s a small step to imagine other domains that could benefit from similar systems. A legal based smart system could be implemented to expedite the processing of patent applications which have increased by more than 50 percent over the last decade, and which are significantly backlogged. More valuable still, this same system could improve the quality of application review, provide actionable recommendations to junior staffers, and reduce the process gaming that occurs. Investment bank fraud systems, corporate expense tracking and personal finances are but a few other examples.


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