Is the Cloud Killing Jobs or Creating Them?

As long as machines, automation and artificial intelligence have been around, there’s been speculation about the likelihood of these technologies stealing everyone’s jobs. Is there genuine cause for worry, or is it all a bunch of nonsense?

Before addressing the related concerns, it’s essential to highlight the capabilities and reach of modern technology, because the debate becomes irrelevant if the tech isn’t in place to make it happen. So, how far are we from a truly autonomous market where nearly everything is automatic and electronically or robotically performed? More importantly, how much of this movement is the cloud responsible for?

The Current State of Autonomy

A natural place to direct attention is the driverless or autonomous vehicle market. Many companies, like Google, Tesla and Ford, are currently working on driverless vehicles and related technology. Few of these platforms are running on national roadways, but that doesn’t mean we’re not on the precipice of its adoption.

In October 2017, Uber completed a trial with one of its self-driving transport trucks making a 200-kilometer beer run from Fort Collins to Colorado Springs. Someone did ride in the truck just in case, but rarely took control and instead spent most of their time in the passenger compartment monitoring the driving system.

The fact that the transport run was successful shows exactly what it needs to: The technology is here.

So, where does the cloud fit in? Believe it or not, cloud computing and related technologies serve as the foundation for many of these platforms — especially self-driving and autonomous vehicles. As the vehicles operate, they collect a wide variety of data and information using onboard sensors, which then get transmitted via the cloud to a remote computing solution. Generally tied to AI and machine learning, that remote solution makes the necessary calculations and decisions and sends the information back to the vehicle.

You see, it’s all rooted in the cloud and cloud computing technologies.

But the Cloud Is Bigger Than Autonomy

Of course, the cloud is for more than just autonomy, AI and advanced robotics operations. It’s also useful for conventional storage, remote processing, infrastructure as a service, testing and development, analytics, disaster recovery and so much more.

So, while autonomy may certainly be responsible for taking a lot of jobs and work opportunities, that doesn’t necessarily mean cloud technologies are, as well. Which brings us full circle to the original question: Is the cloud killing jobs or creating them?

The answer is both. But according to the World Economic Forum, emerging technologies — including the cloud — will help create more jobs by 2022, more than they kill, to be exact. The agency’s report predicts a loss of 75 million jobs by 2022, but also the creation of 133 million jobs during the same period.

For anyone who didn’t do the math in their head, that’s a net increase of 58 million jobs.

While a push to cloud technologies and automation — through things like cloud migration — may certainly take over particular jobs, the emergence of subsequent platforms will also introduce many new opportunities. Someone has to keep those systems operational, which means maintaining them and improving upon existing foundations. Further still, someone has to help expand the scope of those applications as a company or provider grows.

All of this lends credence to the fact that non-specialized degrees or routes are the best way to go currently for those entering the market. Qualifications in computer science, IT and cybersecurity will certainly boost a career well beyond a specific focus. Why? Because professionals with these specialties tend to be versatile, and capable of both adapting and shifting duties based on what’s available in the market.

Cybersecurity especially will be a highly lucrative opportunity going forward, propelled significantly by the emergence of cloud computing and remote technologies like cloud hosting, which tend to have more vulnerabilities to address than their local or on-site counterparts.

In the end, the truth is that cloud computing won’t be killing jobs in some sweeping manner, as many have claimed. Job loss and creation will both happen as part of the widespread adoption of this technology. A solid foundation in computer science and IT — which many professionals have — will be the key to overcoming major losses.

Kayla Matthews: