Impact of Technology on Professional Lives
In the industrial landscape, change usually happens slowly enough that it can be seen coming with a fair degree of warning. We can try to prepare for it by learning new skills, or just be very good at adapting ourselves along the way. What we shouldn't model ourselves on is the old dog that can't learn new tricks. So thank you for writing this informative blog and giving us your views as to what may lie ahead.
Many of us are at least aware of the potential for disruptive change but just hope it doesn't happen in the near future. However sometimes all of a sudden a big nudge comes from an economic event such as the recent resource price weakness. This has pushed companies to re-examine costs and get more efficient, a necessary thing in the end while causing some pain now.
During my career as a mechanical piping engineer I have seen the software tools gradually getting smarter (although they are still a long way off from replacing engineers). Rather than take jobs away, at least when there has been clients willing to pay (high resource prices), the work has often expanded to fill the time available. In other words more information gets recorded and utilised, more things get analysed and things get analysed in more detail. Hopefully this all results in a system that is safer overall.
When it comes to more efficient welding I wouldn't think this holds true as a weld only needs doing once (usually) and a given project could be handled by a smaller crew in the same time. NDT technology / machines are also improving and reducing inspection times.
Describing this as an escalation in the skills required by engineers and artisans - perhaps for the welder there is an evolution in technical know-how. But for the engineer? They become less involved in the technical details and instead let the computer provide answers - often adopting the default settings without necessarily understanding the meaning and then not having a good feeling for whether the output is realistic. That especially is the kind of result that can come from 'commoditised' engineering where the focus is on maximum output for minimum cost.
Another way in which technology has changed things is of course the rise of the internet. On the whole its great to have improved access to information but we need to be careful of googling all our answers rather than actually spending time thinking or referring to authoritative sources.