the newsletter of tbd consultants - 1st qtr 2017
Building Information Modeling (BIM) is rapidly becoming the norm for construction projects, and here we look at some ways that BIM is continuing to revolutionize the industry.
Technology has been changing our work patterns since farming replaced the hunter-gatherers, and it is almost certain that the hunter-gatherers were not happy with the farmers. The change was damaging their profession and a worker’s feeling of self-worth can be tied to their job. A change that affects their work can be seen as an attack on them. The term Luddite is now used for people who resist technological change, and that term dates back to 1811 when the weavers of Britain fought back against the introduction of the mills, which was seen as threatening their jobs.
Work can sometimes be stressful, but it has also been shown to be good for you. The sense of fulfillment and accomplishment that work often provides, has been shown to make people feel better and seems to improve their immune systems. The social interaction, that work also often provides, has been shown to stave off cognitive decline. So it is not surprising that people can become protective of their jobs.
The introduction of personal computers around the 1970s and 80s was seen as threatening jobs, and even the well-known economist, John Maynard Keynes, expected people by now to be dealing with issues of how to manage their leisure time. Instead, since the 1970s, the number of hours worked in the west has been on an upward trend, and 50 hour weeks are now commonplace, not the 15 hours or so that Keynes was forecasting. With cellphones and other mobile technology keeping you in constant contact with your place of employment, some might say they are working 24/7.
Jobs have been developing around technology. While some jobs have been replaced and others changed, new jobs have emerged to service the technology and those using it. Automation of some aspects of production has helped economies to grow, and people have been able to afford more goods and services, creating more jobs.
It has been suggested that almost 50% of current jobs could be replaced by automation over the next 20 years, and the construction industry is certainly not immune to the trend. It is suggested that a lot of onsite labor will be replaced due to increasing offsite prefabrication of portions of a building, largely by automated process. Since it is already becoming difficult to find workers to staff the construction sites, that trend seems to be an advantage, but any change can be stressful with its need for new practices and procedures.
The jobs that are seen as being less affected by technological change are those that involve social contact, and those that utilize imagination and foresight. The exploration of space has become largely the domain of robots, because they are less expensive to transport and maintain, but despite being largely autonomous, the robotic rovers exploring Mars (as an example) still need human operators here on Earth to tell them where to go, what samples to take and analyze, etc., and to troubleshoot issues as they arise. Those same robots also needed a human team to plan, design, and build them.
Technology will continue to change our work patterns, making some jobs obsolete and creating others. And just maybe it will provide us with a bit more leisure time, but if history is anything to go on, that might be unlikely.
A new year, and a new President. In this article we speculate a bit on what both might mean for our industry and the world in general.
Design consultant: Katie Levine of Vallance, Inc.