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47% of all jobs will be automated by 2034 and no government is prepared

Robot workAlmost half of all jobs could be automated by computers within two decades and “no government is prepared” for the tsunami of social change that will follow, according to the Economist.

The magazine’s 2014 analysis of the impact of technology paints a pretty bleak picture of the future.

It says that while innovation (aka “the elixir of progress”) has always resulted in job losses, usually economies have eventually been able to develop new roles for those workers to compensate, such as in the industrial revolution of the 19th century, or the food production revolution of the 20th century.

But the pace of change this time around appears to be unprecedented, its leader column claims. And the result is a huge amount of uncertainty for both developed and under-developed economies about where the next ‘lost generation’ is going to find work.

It quotes a 2013 Oxford Martin School study that estimates 47% of all jobs could be automated in the next 20 years:

“Our findings thus imply that as technology races ahead, low-skill workers will reallocate to tasks that are non-susceptible to computerisation – i.e., tasks requiring creative and social intelligence. For workers to win the race, however, they will have to acquire creative and social skills,” that study says.

The Economist also points out that current unemployment levels are startlingly high, but that “this wave of technological disruption to the job market has only just started”.

Specifically the Economist points to new tech like driverless cars, improved household gadgets, faster and more efficient online communications and ‘big data’ analysis to areas that humans are quickly being superceded. And while new start-ups are raising billions, they employ few people – Instagram, sold to Facebook in 2012 for $1 billion, employed just 30 people at the time.

Those conclusions are echoed elsewhere. Another study (‘Are You Ready For #GenMobile?’), to be released in full on 21 January by Aruba Networks, points out just how fast traditional working models are changing.

It says that 72% of British people now believe they work more efficiently at home, and that 63% need a WiFi network to complete their tasks – not bad for a technology that was barely standardised 10 years ago.

Meanwhile in ‘The Second Machine Age’, out this week, Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee argue workers are under unprecedented pressure by the automation of skilled and unskilled jobs.

Production line

In a recent Salon interview Brynjolfsson said: “technology has always been destroying jobs, and it’s always been creating jobs, and it’s been roughly a wash for the last 200 years. But starting in the 1990s the employment to population ration really started plummeting and it’s now fallen off a cliff and not getting back up. We think that it should be the focus of policymakers right now to figure out how to address that.”

The BBC also produced a report earlier this month which claimed, in stark tones, that “the robots are coming to steal our jobs”.

“AI’s are embedded in the fabric of our everyday lives,” head of AI at Singularity University, Neil Jacobstein, told the Beeb.

“They are used in medicine, in law, in design and throughout automotive industry.”

That report too pointed out the change will affect jobs of all kinds – from a Chinese factory Hon Hai which has announced plans to replace 500,000 workers with robots in three years, to lawyers, surgeons and public sector workers.

Opinions remain divided on the impact and future of technological innovation on the jobs market, and wealth inequality. The Economist leader argues that governments have a responsibility to innovate in education, taxation and embracing progress, though the solutions are by no means obvious or without uncertainty.

If only we could automate the process of making and implementing those political decisions – now that would really be something.

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Source: http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2014/01/17/rise-of-the-machines-economist_n_4616931.html


4 comments

  1. I fail to see how this is gonna be a bad thing. It will just make people have to become smarter. as the only people getting jobs will be the ones who can program the systems. This will inevitably force more and more people to learn computer programming and coding, and that is not a bad thing. Coding/Programming enforces critical thinking skills, and we need more of that now more than ever.

  2. yeah dec? Free market is the BS, my friend. That’s the real issue, i.e. the non-monitoring, or non-controlling what’s going on with tax-payers own money or savings or pensions, etc. And the monitoring, transparency and accountability should happen with ‘democratic’ processes- as for the rest well, the apple doesn’t fall far from the apple-tree. Un-ethical doing follows other scams or the wrong use of technology, such as seen already with unethical replacement of people vs. machines. Bu,t I guess, that’s what happens, when we let idiot politicians invest in busines- values rathen that the country’s own people and human values. To conclude and agree upon this article’s premise: ”If only we could automate the process of making and implementing those political decisions – now that would really be something…’. You said it!

  3. this is bullshit.
    this is the scare tactics nonsense government is going to use to justify why the economy has gone to fuck and unemployed is skyrocketing.

    the reality is when it happens it will have nothing to do with technical innovation replacing labour and everything to do with the centrally planned fucking disaster they have lead us into with their money printing lack of morals and straight criminality.

    if anything technology will be the only thing offsetting the establishment robbing us blind, it certainly wont be the cause of our problems, a free market always adapts, but alas theres no such thing anymore.

    • Its the free market that has created the automation in the first place. But of course the solution as always leave it to your god the free market to adapt. Way to go. If people don’t have money to spend there is NO free market. Reminds me how little people know about economics

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