A look into the future: employment, women, engineering, artificial intelligence and industrial eco-technologies

It’s quite obvious we do worry about environmental issues here in our degree, but it’s not the only thing we worry about. Today we’d like to bring a subject that is quite closely related to environment and to manufacturing technologies, even though it might not seem that obvious

We’re talking about the huge change that artificial intelligence is going to bring to our society. We don’t hear much about this on the media nor mentioned by politicians, mostly due to one simple reason: they don’t know much about it. Here, even though we don’t know much either, we care about this issue and that’s why we’re bringing it up.

There’s a message coming from lots of companies around us: “in the future, we will design everything on a 3D software, then we’ll send this file to a machine and that machine will build it. The machine will have the necessary knowledge to do so, and to do it without a mistake. I don’t mind if we’re talking about a milling process, 3D printing, plastic injection or whatever you can think of: this will happen to most technologies. We don’t know when this is going to happen, but we know it is going to happen.” We’re not hearing this message in Silicon Valley, but right here in the Basque Country.

This will mean that lots of employment positions will disappear. Of course, new ones will be created too, but they won’t be as many as the ones vanishing.

Have you heard some “crazy ideas” in the media lately, such as robots having to pay taxes? O universal rent? Or self-driven vehicles substituting taxi drivers? This is where all these rumours are coming from. And we’re not talking about sentences coming from politicians: most governments are not looking at this right now, and it might be too late by the time they do so.

Is our society ready for this change? It doesn’t seen so, and only due to our politicians.

Taking a look at the employment data in the Basque Country, we find a significate fact: salary wise, the gap between high standard jobs (including engineering) and low standard positions has increased. The average is ok, but averages often hide lots of information. Is this a sign of what’s to come? Low standard jobs tend to be automated, and therefore wages are lower. We hear the economy is doing better, but it might just be increasing this gap.

Add another fact to the equation: the presence of women in engineering is not very high. In Spain is about 18%. Our degree in eco-Technology in industrial processes has had some higher rates at some point (33 to 40%), but it doesn’t seem like a trend. And, if as a consequence, women do not have access to this high standard positions, what’s the labour future for women? Will it get worse than what it already is? Fair enough, there’re some other areas where women are a majority, but those areas will be reduced too, since IA is going to take over everything: health, administration, construction or the taxi industry.

We might reach a situation when only those behind (or above) IA do get a proper job. It might be far away, but it is a possibility.

What can be done in this situation? We don’t have a magic answer, but looks like studying engineering can be a good option these days. Just in case.

It could also be that we’re wrong, and none of this is going to happen. Anyway, being ready for that it won’t do any harm. That’s what we’re trying to do.

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