An Oxford Study shows that 47% of US jobs are at risk of being displaced by automation and computerization. The study examined over 700 occupation types to reveal which may be vulnerable in the coming decades and finds that the precarious jobs are not limited to those based on computation and routine tasks. Robots are getting very good at a bunch of jobs and tasks, but there are still many categories in which humans perform better.
And, perhaps more importantly, robots and other forms of automation can aid in the creation of new and better jobs for humans. As a result, while we do expect that some jobs will disappear, other jobs will be created and some existing jobs will become more valuable. Workers, for their part, have to be strategic and aim for the jobs least likely to be overtaken by robots or other increasingly skilled machines. They have to commit to a lifetime of practicing and updating their skills.
Google’s self-driving car, for example, proves that new technology can perform both routine and non-routine tasks, as well as manual and cognitive work, potentially rendering humans redundant to driving and navigation. In the next decade or two, driverless cars could put many of the more than three million licensed professional drivers around the country out of work. While automation long ago revolutionized the assembly line, advances in big data computing power could soon downsize the traditional white collar workforce as well.
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The new coming wave of automation is blind to the color of your collar
“Even what you think of as advanced professions that require a great deal of specialization and expertise, the vast majority of the work is routine, and it’s those routine tasks which can be now taken over by computers, so that what used to take the work of 20 lawyers may be done by four or five lawyers, or 20 doctors may be done by five.
Most Americans think Robots will take all the jobs, just not theirs. No one is irreplaceable, and no one is too good to be replaced. Some two-thirds of the Americans believe that in fifty years, robots and computers will “probably” or “definitely” be performing most of the work currently carried out by humans.
While we might believe automation is a threat to the workforce at large, individually, we seem mostly confident that we’re irreplaceable. This kind of narcissism could create a blind spot, enabling workforce automation to take us by surprise.
Younger people (ages 18-29) and people who work in the public sector (including educators and government employees) are both more likely to believe their job is secure. Both groups were also slightly more skeptical of workforce automation in general.
Maybe even journalists. Now computers are creeping into the reporting field. At The Associated Press, approximately 4,000 corporate earning stories are being written by computers.
The AP uses a program called Wordsmith, created by Automated Insights. “We can generate millions of stories in a matter of minutes or hours,” Automated Insights CEO Robbie Allen said. But Allen downplays the doomsday scenario.
“I believe that our future is going to be much more of a humans and software working together, and to our knowledge, nobody’s ever lost a job due to an implementation of Wordsmith,” Allen said. “In fact, most of the time, we’re implementing things that previously didn’t exist before. We haven’t eliminated any jobs, and what it’s really done for us is it’s allowed us to give reporters and editors time to do more meaningful work.”
We are in for a great disruption and those most disrupted will be the middle and working classes
Jobs have been created — but many, in the service sector, are both insecure or what the academic-activist David Graeber calls “bullshit jobs” — jobs which give neither pleasure to their holders nor benefit to society. More, the service jobs are often wearying, and don’t provide a decent living — especially for those who live in expensive cities like New York, London or Paris. Gone is the era of the lifetime career, let alone the lifelong job and the economic security that came with it, having been replaced by a new economy intent on recasting full-time employees into contractors, vendors, and temporary workers.
Work — making sure it’s there, making it meaningful, giving it the dignity of being part-constructed by the worker — will be the largest domestic issue in our economies.
If computers continue to infringe on humans’ territory, what would a mostly jobless population look like?
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Places that have specialized in creative work are most likely to prosper in the 21st century
The chance of finding yourself replaced by a robot varies depending on where you work, the field you work in, and how much you earn (factors that are obviously linked).
35% of UK jobs are at risk of being automated over the next two decades. According to Oxford University, in the years ahead, millions of jobs in sectors such as accounting and auditing will be replaced with machines that can so the same tasks much more cheaply and effectively than human workers – without requiring salaries, holidays or sick pay – while administrators, paralegals and bank clerks will also be hit hard.
Across the whole UK, jobs paying less than £30,000 ($48,000) are nearly five times more likely to be lost to automation than jobs paying over £100,000 ($159,000). The finer points of how automation will affect the workplace: jobs in administrative support, transportation, sales and services, construction, and manufacturing as among the most high-risk from technology.
Meanwhile, jobs in sectors like financial services, senior management, engineering, law, science, education, and the arts and media are at the least risk of being robotized. That broadly echoes and reflects where automated systems are at now: great at repetitive drudgery, not so much at creative thought and people skills.
We need to help people develop skills that machines are still relatively bad at, such as creativity, empathy and problem-solving. And cities that maintain their ability to shift workers into new employment opportunities resulting from technological change will prove the most resilient.
Safe jobs in 21st century are among bottlenecks to automation
Creativity, social intelligence, and the ability to interact with complex objects and environments are the areas we should be focusing upon. These three areas where humans have a distinct advantage over machines are key to job creation, where humans can beat machines.
- Creative endeavors: These include creative writing, entrepreneurship, and scientific discovery. These can be highly paid and rewarding jobs. There is no better time to be an entrepreneur, as you can use technology to leverage your invention.
- Social interactions: Robots do not have the kinds of emotional intelligence that humans have. Self-awareness, self-regulation, and relationship building will be key skills at workplaces. Motivated people who are sensitive to the needs of others will put people and relationships first and make great managers, leaders, salespeople, negotiators, caretakers, nurses, and teachers. Consider, for example, the idea of a robot giving a half-time pep talk to a high school football team. That would not be inspiring. Recent research makes clear that social skills are increasingly in demand.
- Physical dexterity and mobility: If you have ever seen a robot try to pick up a pencil you see how clumsy and slow they are, compared to a human child. Humans have millennia of experience hiking mountains, swimming lakes, and dancing—practice that gives them extraordinary agility and physical dexterity.
The digital age is set to cause more upheaval than previous technological revolutions because change is happening faster than ever before and is fundamentally altering the way we live and work. As automation and computerization develop, enabling not just the automation of repetitive, but also cognitive tasks involving subtle and non-routine judgment. Through Robotics, big data, the digitization of industries and the Internet of Things, the nature of occupations and whole industries will change and also the dynamics of economic growth. These new technologies are going to disrupt the lives of many workers, but these developments will also create large surpluses of wealth through gains in efficiency. We can choose where and how that wealth is directed. As jobs are displaced, we can pursue policy platforms that strengthen the social safety net and ensure that workers who have been pushed out of the labor force are able to meet their basic needs. If we want to live in a society that defines many people as redundant parts of a surplus population, we should sit back and hope for the best. But if we value the life and dignity of each and every individual, then we need to get involved in ensuring that the future we live in will be a future where the benefits of changes in technology are justly distributed for all.
We are at a critical juncture in the evolution of human society. We can continue to live in a world where many of us are nothing more than cogs in a machine, or we can choose to fashion a society that values the potential and power and beauty of every individual.
Furthermore, we should equip workers to engage with developing technologies, so they’re able to benefit from them, and focus on those bottlenecks still faced by automation. Giving people those skills could help them find jobs that aren’t readily replaceable by technology, but also help them to develop new technologies and push innovation further.
The answer to the new and growing workforce of robots is not to slow the pace of technological progress, but to speed up our institutions so that entrepreneurs, managers and workers alike can thrive. When it comes to the real-life race against the machine, we have no time to lose. Either we can rise to the challenge of automation, and radically overhaul our education, training and skills system, or wage a losing battle trying to compete. What are your thoughts on this? Let us know in the comments below.