Job loss is blamed on many factors. Illegal immigration (though this argument is dubious at best), outsourcing, regulatory overreach, and automation are the most common culprits. Of these, automation — specifically the rise of a robotics-based labor force coupled with artificial intelligence (AI) — poses the greatest threat to the average job. Advances in robotics and AI may soon endanger the employment status of everyone from drivers and personal assistants to sex workers and writers.
According to a CNN report, the Bank of England is preparing for automation to shed 80 million American jobs and 15 million British jobs within the next 10 to 20 years. This is approximately 50% of the U.S. and British workforce. Forbes has put the number at 45%.
The workers who will be replaced first are toll booth operators, cashiers, marketers, customer service reps, factory workers, financial middlemen, journalists, lawyers, and phone workers. These jobs will soon be supplanted by automated services made possible by AI, 3D printing, robotics, nanotechnology, and even biotechnology.
Sourcing a study from Oxford University, Yahoo Tech adds even more jobs to the endangered list, including paralegals, loan officers, receptionists, salespeople, security guards, fast food cooks, and even bartenders.
“We are approaching the time when machines will be able to outperform humans at almost any task,” says Moshe Vardi, a computer science professor at Rice University in Texas. “Society needs to confront this question before it is upon us: if machines are capable of doing almost any work humans can do, what will humans do?”
The transformation is already underway, and the World Economic Forum (WEF) believes five million jobs will be gone by 2020, irrevocably terminated by what they call the “Fourth Industrial Revolution.” The jobs most at risk in the immediate present, the WEF says, are “administrative and routine white-collar office functions,” though eventually advances in AI will provide corporations with the option of outsourcing virtually any job to automated services and entities.
What can humans do? The WEF recommends “upskilling.”
At least one analyst is more optimistic on the issue. J.P. Gownder of Forrester, a Boston-based tech research firm, says robots will replace some jobs, but will also create new ones. The new jobs, Gownder believes, will be training the robots.
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