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The human side of the Internet of Things

The human side of IoT

Contributed by Peter Hirst, Associate Dean of MIT Sloan Executive Education.

Predictions about the effects of the Internet of Things on people’s quality of life tend to fall into two diametrically opposite categories: doom and gloom on one side and technocratic idyll on the other—with the doom and gloom dominating collective public imagination. A 2017 Pew Research Center report found that “around three-quarters of Americans expect increased inequality between rich and poor if machines can do many human jobs; just one-quarter think the economy would create many new, better-paying jobs for humans.”

One could argue that decades of dystopian imagery in popular culture have conditioned our minds to turn immediately to the worst possible scenario, but denying the inevitable reality of a major change already underway would be irresponsible, if not downright foolish. With dark factories (no human labor to illuminate), robotic caregiving, AI-based legal and medical work, and more on the horizon, people will be displaced, need to be retrained, or must find new and, hopefully, better careers. It is up to us humans to find ways forward that will benefit our humanity, not diminish its value.

This notion was brought to stark relief in a recent meeting of the Internet of Things Talent Consortium (IoTTC) at the New York Academy of Sciences in Manhattan. Founded in 2015, the IoTTC is a unique industry-academia collaboration focused on building partnerships and solutions needed to drive digital transformation in every sector. (MIT Sloan Executive Education is among the founding members of the Consortium, and I serve on its board.) It is encouraging to know that many leaders, particularly those in industry, are talking about the significant changes they are anticipating as well as the jobs that are being created—and very much needed—that will require very human skills and capabilities. These new roles may be complemented but are less likely to be outright replaced by machines and computers.

Read the full article on the Internet of Things Talent Consortium site.

We also invite you to learn more about our new, online Executive Education program, Internet of Things: Business Implications and Opportunities (self-paced online).


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