Robots could replace half of all US workers by 2035

Chuck Bednar for redOrbit.com – @BednarChuck

Advances in robotics and artificial intelligence could may wind up costing you your job within the next 20 years, researchers from the Oxford Martin Program on Technology and Employment have discovered using a new machine-learning algorithm.

According to Engadget, the algorithm analyzed data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics and found that as many as 47 percent of all American jobs could be done by machines within the next two decades – if technology continues to progress at its current pace.

Among the professions that will be most affected, the report said, are taxi drivers, truck drivers, and forklift operators, all of whom could be displaced by self-driving vehicles. Retail jobs could also be at risk, as companies collect enough data about shopping habits that automated devices could more effectively predict what a person wants to buy than human clerks.

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“The remaining jobs will be increasingly creative and increasingly social,” Oxford’s Michael Osbourne explained to Fusion. “I actually think it will be better for society, because these are tasks that we tend to do in our spare time as hobbies, and as we are more displaced by machines it will leave these more fundamentally human tasks to perform.”

When asked if this shift would benefit the arts, Osbourne told Fusion that be believed that there “will be new kinds of art, and more people will be freed up to make art, but wages will probably get less competitive in the arts, especially because there’s going to be a lot more supply.”

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Of course, this is all hypothetical. As Engadget explains, the research assumes that robots and AI technology will make a relatively seamless transition from experimental to practical. Currently, there are still several legal and technical obstacles in the way, including the fact that self-driving cars currently aren’t even allowed on the motorway, let alone able to take a taxi-driver’s job.

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“With that in mind, the research is a reminder that society isn’t really prepared for tech-related job disruption on a grand scale,” the website said, noting that while the authors believe people “will still have a place in creative and social work,” that many individuals “aren’t training that way” and that it remains unclear if those fields can handle the influx of new workers.

As CNBC reported on Friday, a similar report from the Boston Consulting Group features a somewhat more optimistic outlook for the future of the human worker. The study claims that 25 percent of all jobs that can be automated will be handled by robots by the year 2025, an increase from 10 percent currently.

“It means a very substantial increase in productivity and it means we will be able to produce more at lower prices,” Hal Sirkin, senior partner and managing director at Boston Consulting Group, told the website. “We are thinking about a 16 percent drop in labor costs for manufacturing plants over this time period.”

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