Careful! The robots are ready to take your job!

Nic Crowther
Wed 19 Aug

Yesterday saw a fascinating discussion between two futurists who are equally excited and terrified about our upocoming future where robots finally become an integrated part of our lives.

This is not so much about some sort of Cyberdyne/Terminator dystopia  or the human battery farms of The Matrix. It’s about an imminent and likely shift where technology assumes the roles of not only unskilled labour, but white collar workers as well though a mix of miniaturisation and increased processing power.

 

 

The real question they are trying to answer, though, is what this will actually mean for the broader economy?

At the start of the industrial revolution, it was feared the machines would put people out of work. It did, but over time there were new jobs through emerging industries that filled the vacuum. The same happened early in the 20th Century as a electricity became widespread and dramatically changed the way we worked.

With the mergence of robotics in the 70s and 80s it was jobs of factory workers that was again under threat. This transition is almost completed, as cars, computers and many other items came off an automated production line.

The one thing we have had – arguably up until this moment – is time. Although these revolutions have hurt certain jobs, the shift had been slow enough to allow those workers to be trained into other employment.

 

 

Now, we’re looking at a much greater rate of change. The attached podcast cites a research paper suggestingthat in the next 20 years, 47% of American jobs are under threat from automation. The great question is whether enough new industries  - many of which we’ve never imagined – will be there to pick up the slack.

Journalists, project managers and anaesthetists are all under threat. Perhaps your job is as well.

Not terrified enough? Have a look at the latest clip from Google/Alphabet-owned Boston Dynamics. The future is looking very, very close. I’m going to hide under the bed.

 

 

(BBC World Service)