The technological revolution reaches Belgium

I’ve found this article from ING bank. They did a study determining how many jobs in Belgium are susceptible to be automated in the near future.

For the purpose of discussing this study I’ll give you their conclusions:

In accordance with the current technological level, 49% of Belgian jobs can be automated on long term basis.

35% of Belgian jobs has a larger chance to be automated(<70%).

Administrative clerks, salespeople and domestic help will have the highest losses of jobs.

Technological advancement will aid in freeing workers to perform other/new(!) tasks.

Automation provides an answer to increasing ageing problem, by compensating the lack of workforce.

The risk is that continuous change will be badly managed. Not accepting new technology has  always slowed technological advancement

Let me start at the end. It does feel kind of obvious that the lack of acceptance and/or the greed of people slows technology. But also advances it. Bear with me, I’ll try to clarify this, using wild allegations, speculation and a good bit of criticism!

The electric car VS The fossil fuel car.

The giant car manufacturing companies and oil industry have in the past (very successfully) slowed the development of the electric car (Remember “who killed the electric car?” -consumer uncertainty or conspiracy?) Of course this wild allegation isn’t founded on proof. But you do kind of tend to feel this way don’t you? Why haven’t we seen more of electric motors in cars? Now brands like Porche en Mclaren sell their hybrids as powerhouses thanks to the incredible torque of the electric motor. Well this isn’t exactly news is it? We have been using electric motors extensively in torque-demanding scenario’s. it’s only after the popularity of the Prius and the batteries of the Tesla that we saw changes in the car industry. Although hybrids still tend to have little range on batteries alone (wouldn’t want to stop using petrol do we?).

On the other hand the ways we now are able to get giant platforms floating on the seas extracting oil, the extreme stability and performance of cars are examples of indeed technological advances. Some of them quite extreme and really innovative.

So are we slowing technologies we (or some corporations) don’t like? Most likely. Is this the way of the future? Most likely. Is that a good thing? I guess not.

But this does reflect the un-eagerness regarding technology. I think we can say the most resistance is with Elderly people, the minimum-wage-poor people and the extremely rich. All have their reasons, all equally good. Preserve our heritage and ways, fear of the unknown, fear of losing their wealth respectively. (again just guessing here of course.)

Does this mean we should slow the pace of the “slowest mover”? We do this in our laws, for example driving restrictions prevent less experienced drivers to enter in dangerous situations. Making drugs illegal tends to the safety of malleable young minds. I’m afraid this tactic is the most likely to be adopted but also the one that may prevent us from reaching a sustainable world before we damage it beyond repair.

I’ll end at the start. 49% of all Belgian jobs are going to be replaced according to the ING study. Does this seem realistic?

See you in the comments!


4 thoughts on “The technological revolution reaches Belgium

  1. frederikroosens

    From a purely rational point of view, this figure seems realistic. The logic behind it is that every task that follows a specific procedure can eventually be replaced by a robot. Examples of these tasks are in the first place factory jobs, but in the second place jobs that seem more complicated, but can be reduced to a set of simple actions. Think about a shopkeeper. In fact, shopping can be reduced to exchanging products for money. Every shop can become a large vending machine. This is already happening in online shopping. However, people still go to ordinary shops instead of the internet because of the human contact they get with the vendor. Some things cannot be replaced by robots, simply because we don’t like it. People prefer human barkeepers over robots. Lonely elder people like it when the postman comes by and has al little chat with them. Smalltalk about the weather with the butcher is more pleasant than a pound of meat coming out of a robot.
    The emotional framework is also very important, and therefore it is hard to exactly predict how many jobs will be lost due to automation, but 49% seems a little high according to me.


  2. antonnulens Post author

    To put it quite rudely, salespeople don’t actually provide a value adding function in a product’s life cycle. They are a means to an end. You need salespeople to get to your products, but even now we see internet taking over the consumer market. Everyone has bought something online by now. Some people even buy their groceries online or at least order them. Salespeople in my opinion have already become quite obsolete in consumer markets. Now in industries this is a bit different. because the salesperson tries to sell you a solution for your problem, he takes multiple inputs and parameters and finds a working solution for your company. Well even that can be automated in the future. I think many of these things have to do with mindset and more importantly cost-effectiveness. Also, why would the fact that you see more automation in medical sector change anything to the automation of salespeople? And, yes. I’ve written an article on medical automation because of your post about automated diagnoses. Go check it out! 😉


  3. nicolemmens

    Nope. These just seem like numbers aimed to provoke and provide sensation. 49% COULD be automated. Ok , maybe.

    But first of, automation requires an enormous amount of initial investment… Sure you could replace all the people putting meatballs on sticks in the Mora factory but it’ll cost you: consultancy, engineering development, production, prototyping, installing, maintenance. Ok maybe replacing Jos en Mieke is more expensive than we initially thought.

    As for what Alexander said: in the medical sector robots are always still just a tool, an extension of the surgeons hand, I don’t truly believe that it actually replaces that many people, it’s just a different way of working.

    And (@ Anton) for the care / sales sector, don’t underestimate that human touch people like. For sales, other people like a face they can recognize as a contact reference. Same goes for the care sector, people like the human contact, especially the elderly i would figure, so i don’t think they’re on the brink of replacement any time soon 🙂 !



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