Robots Will Take Your Job, Too

It’s being called the Second Machine Age, it’s just beginning. It turns out the robot takeover of the world won’t involve explosions, but a radically changing workforce.

The Second Machine Age is defined by a number of significant technological developments: 3D printers, autonomous robots, machine learning, Big Data and the Internet of Things.

All of those developments mean one thing: we’re at the cusp of a workforce revolution that will make the Industrial Revolution look like a practice round.

It’s not just low paying blue collar jobs that are in for a change — well paying white collar jobs may become automated.

In one McKinsey study, they found that a shocking 45% of activities across all industries have the potential for automation using technology that exists today.

The Bank of England’s chief economist, Andy Haldane, advised that 50% of jobs in the United States and the United Kingdom could be automated over the next 10 to 20 years.

“These machines are different,” Haldane said. “Unlike in the past, they have the potential to substitute for human brains as well as hands.”

A 2014 report by Bloomberg backs up Haldane, stating that half of the workforce could be replaced by automation over the next few decades. Bloomberg cited an Oxford University study that examined more than 700 occupations and analyzed their susceptibility to automation. Results below:

Jobs are in danger of being automated, factoring out the human element. Is your job safe?

Robots and Artificial Intelligence: Two Sides of the Same Coin

In his book “Humans Need Not Apply,” Jerry Kaplan uses two terms to describe the technologies that both exist today and are being developed. He discusses ‘forged laborers’ and ‘synthetic intelligence.’

Forged laborers are physical bodies, what most people think of when they hear the word ‘robot.’ Synthetic intelligence describes disembodied programs existing on computer networks. Both of these types of technological advancements aim to radically transform the job market.

When we discuss automation changing the workforce, we aren’t always talking about a physical robot performing a task. We’re also talking about a sophisticated piece of software automating work processes.

Is Your Job in Danger?

A McKinsey study on automation analyzed over 800 occupations, focusing on 2,000+ work activities, to determine the potential for automation.

The study found that 78% of predictable physical work has the potential to become automated using existing technology. Which industries contain predictable physical work?

  • Manufacturing
  • Food Service
  • Accommodations
  • Retail

Surprisingly, accommodations and food service are the most susceptible to automation, more so than manufacturing. For example, this machine can create 400 made-to-order hamburgers per hour.

Jobs that involve data processing and data analysis are also at risk of automation, having a 60% potential of automation. Jobs affected include:

  • Loan specialists
  • Financial services
  • Mortgage specialists
  • Accountants

Software has been transforming these jobs for quite some time, and now it’s poised to automate 90% of the work activities.

Which Jobs Are Safe?

Jobs that involve managing people, applying expertise to decision making or involve creative work have only a 9% potential for automation. These include:

  • Management
  • Education
  • Healthcare
  • Creative work

Jobs that involve human interaction will be the least likely to become automated. Deciding to automate a job is a difficult decision based on a cost/benefit analysis and understanding customer’s needs. Simply because a job has a high potential for automation does not mean it will be automated. For example, technology already exists to automate certain nurse functions. However, people expect human interaction with their healthcare, so automating nursing is unlikely (for now).

Looking to the Future

All of the above information is based on technology that is presently available. However, great leaps and strides are being made every day to advance robotics and artificial intelligence.

A single advancement in artificial intelligence that provides enhanced linguistic abilities would open up an entirely new segment of the job market to automation.

We’re standing at the precipice of the Second Machine Age. As the cost of automation decreases, and the cost of labor increases, we’ll start seeing more automation throughout our daily lives.

You may buy your coffee from a robot at Starbucks. You may no longer have a cashier at Safeway. You may even entrust your physical health to a robotic nurse.

Will this mean widespread unemployment? Much like what happened during the Industrial Revolution, it will require workers to acquire new skills and enter new fields.

Robots are coming from your job. Are you ready?