The book "Rise of the Robots" by Martin Ford got my attention. The main idea of the book is summarised in the video below.
Yeah, we are all doomed, etc. But I'm mainly interested to see the impact on the construction industry in the near future. The three phenomena I can identify, that are happening right now.
Offshoring of the high-skilled jobs.
Any occupation that primarily involves manipulating information and in some way is not anchored locally is offshorable (face to face interaction with the client) and will be fully automated in the far future. According to the book a quarter of all UK, employment is offshorable. I can see it already happening in the construction industry. A large number of the engineers and architects on the project I'm involved are not in the UK. At the moment, this phenomenon results mainly in the lack of skills in the industry. And these professionals are usually based in EU. But at some point the China and India will get involved. These countries are far more competitive in wages and have far larger cognitive capacity than European countries. The top 5% of the population in terms of cognitive capabiltiy of India and China (the smartest people of these countries) is still 8 times the population of the UK. Indians speak English. Chinese not so much. But the technology will eliminate this barrier for virtual migration. The very smart people will not hesitate to look abroad.
The second phenomenon is factory reshoring.
It is still the case that the most of the materials were delivered to project from abroad. But there is a tendency for these materials to be assembled in the UK. What is more interesting the assembly of the materials is happening off-site. I can see growing demand for unitised and precast systems. Facades of nearly every project taller than 7 floors is prefabricated and installed on site as unitized system. At this moment in time, this is dictated by the demanding installation programme. And unitized systems save a lot of construction time and logistic expenses. However, one must notice that prefabrication is very repetitive and subjected to automation. Less and less labour resources are required not only to install the units but also to fabricate them.
Impact on education.
I can't speak for engineers, but what is taught in all UK architectural universities at this moment in time is not relevant to the construction industry. The online education is available to everyone. In terms of architecture, there is enough information online to learn any skill that is required for the architects for free. In terms of mentorship by universities tutors, one can use the online community for the feedback. I trust it is far more productive and relevant way to learn rather than attending a univeristy course.