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Future-proof teams are ones that can confidently walk into tomorrow, knowing that they have prepared for what is next. The future of our work is demanding greater levels of innovation, creativity and original thinking than it ever has before. In order to maintain the forward thinking that tomorrow requires, our teams need to have the people and structures in place today.

We have always known that the future of our work will look dramatically different from the present. What we did not know is that the global pandemic would pave much of the groundwork for this future’s arrival.

Last week, The Wall Street Journal published an article marking the 100th anniversary of the word ‘robot’.[1] First coined in a Czech play by Karel Čapek, the term ‘robot’ has gone on to represent everything from dystopian images of machines posing as humans to simple chatbots that converse with people on websites. Interestingly, the term predated the actual object by a couple of decades.

It has become a well-known fact in recent years that driverless cars are a future that is soon to arrive. In characteristically ambitious fashion, Tesla founder Elon Musk suggests we will see true autonomous driving available to the public within the next few years. Quartz magazine’s Zack Kanter is equally optimistic, predicting that autonomous cars will be commonplace by 2025 and have a near monopoly by 2030.[1] In the near future, brands like Ford are aiming for a target market of commercial-fleet operators and possibly ride-sharing services like Uber or Lyft.[2]

But, what will these developments mean for the everyday life, law and ethics of our near future?

Automation is a word that often strikes fear into workers who cannot help but feel threatened by its emergence in the modern world. Most of what we hear about automation surrounds the ways it will take our jobs and force the everyday worker into irrelevance.

However, there are many ways in which automation will work wonders for our jobs, ways of working and our economy.

Decades ago, the prospect of talking to someone on the other side of the world was unimaginable. Doing business with them, regularly coordinating with them and bridging the geographic and linguistic distance between you and them was even more incomprehensible. Now it is the norm.

Imagine a world where you enter a retail store and are instantly identified by your mobile phone. Your preferences, credit card details and buying history are immediately recognized along with your identity and from that moment on, the entire in-store experience is customized to your needs and desires. You select products either by scanning a code on your smartphone or by placing items in a physical shopping cart the old-school way. When you are finished shopping, your shopping tally is calculated as you walk past sensors near the exit and the amount owing is immediately charged to your default credit card.

Sound fanciful or futuristic? Well this is almost precisely the automated retail experience shoppers are already enjoying in Amazon’s recently opened bricks-and-mortar retail stores.