THE BLOG

The Robots Are Coming, So Get Creative!

02/04/2015 11:50 BST | Updated 01/06/2015 10:59 BST

The future is robot shaped. They'll probably take your job and may even have sex with your partner behind your back. And I'm afraid there's not much you can do to stop that. You can, however, prepare yourself for your new role in society - one that is a more engaged, more creative version of yourself.

It is suggested that over a third of jobs in the UK are at risk of becoming automated within the next 20 years. The figure in the US is even higher at nearly a half, partly because only 0.5% of the workforce there works in the new industries created in the 21st Century. (Google may be worth billions but the workforce is considerably smaller).

The Oxford Martin School at Oxford University has identified the blockers to further automation being around tacit knowledge, less easy to code - perception, creativity and social intelligence. Luckily that covers work in PR and communications quite handsomely, but even I will need to strengthen these competencies to succeed (my thick-rimmed glasses won't be enough to evidence creativity any more), and all organisations will have to be keenly aware of how these shifts will ultimately affect the way we communicate.

The future of work was discussed as part of Futurefest, the recent weekend orgy of future thinking that even saw Dame Vivienne Westwood interviewing Edward Snowden on the future of security and privacy. But unsurprisingly robots featured heavily. They are becoming increasingly advanced - already they are helping shoppers navigate stores, driving mining trucks and taking over driverless cars. Why? Not only because they can but in the case of driving, to radically reduce fatalities and injuries. And if you want to know about sex robots, that's your business. (But, ahem, you can read more about 'Roxxxy' here).

There are two ways to react to the coming robot age - panic or prepare. Speaking at Futurefest, Ije Nwokorie, CEO of creative brand consultants Wolff Olins, said we need to adapt: the future of creativity in an automated world is where every job is described in its creative capacity. He imagines a world where everyone finds their work to be purposeful, creative and human and where businesses are defined by their social propose. This might include tackling urgent issues such as climate change creatively. This does not mean we won't learn maths, for example, but that it also becomes defined in terms of how it can lead to creative thinking. Subjects at school will become less restrictive, and more about building 'human' capacity.

Naturally there will be some discomfort and perhaps pain as we adjust but prepare we must. The Warwick Commission on the Future of Cultural Value recently launched its final report, Enriching Britain: Culture, Creativity and Growth. It found that we are fundamentally not ready for our creative future. Commission Chairman Vikki Heywood said: "[We need] a united and coherent approach that guarantees equal access for everyone to a rich cultural education and the opportunity to live a creative life. There are barriers and inequalities in Britain today that prevent this from being a universal human right. This is bad for business and bad for society."

In September, world leaders will discuss the Sustainable Development Goals, successors to the Millennium Development Goals. In addition to the far-reaching ambitions that will include ending hunger and poverty and tackling equality, education and energy, they also include fostering innovation. We all need to have the chance to create, to innovate, to thrive. Futurefest explored some of the ways we can do this. It was hosted by Nesta, the charity that works to increase the innovation capacity of the UK, and chief executive Geoff Mulgan had a clear outtake - the future shouldn't be something that simply happens to us. It is something we have a chance and responsibility to shape.