Are robots going to steal your job? Not exactly, or at least not in the way you might be imagining it. But in a way, they already have. Think about it. From customer service to transportation, there are tons of instances of humans being replaced by machines. There’s no way around it: both automation and artificial intelligence are going to have significant impacts on the job market of the future. 

The idea of jobs being replaced by technology is by no means a new concept. History is cyclical, and automation is a great example of that. Think of the industrial revolution, when the standardization of machinery robbed many people of their jobs. The only difference is that now, it’s happening to us.

What is automation? How is it different from artificial intelligence?

People often get confused between AI and automation, but the reality is that while they can be related, they are very different. By definition, automation is just what it sounds like; it’s the making of a hardware or software that can do things automatically. In contrast, artificial intelligence is centered on the creation of intelligent machines and software that perform in ways that mimic human behavior. Or, as defined by Brookings Institute, AI refers to “machines that respond to stimulation consistent with traditional responses from humans, given the human capacity for contemplation, judgment, and intention.”

What factors determine a job’s potential to be automated? 

A report published by McKinsey found that there are five factors that can be used to determine the ease at which a job will be automated. The first factor that emphasize is “technical feasibility”— how easy is it to actually is to automate this specific task? Other important factors include cost, the supply and demand of labor, secondary benefits (such as positive environmental impacts), and the presence and/or lack of regulatory and social barriers.

What jobs are the most susceptible to automation? Which are the least?

The McKinsey report identifies the specific areas of the workforce that are significantly more susceptible to automation than others. For instance, predictable physical work is one of the workplace activities that McKinsey deems as being most easily automated. This includes sectors like accommodations and food service, manufacturing and agriculture. The report also claims that workplace activities focused on the collection and processing of data are easy candidates for automation. Such activities are common to many industries, from retail trade to construction. Even the financial sector is susceptible— with the technical potential to automate roughly 43% of worker’s activities.

While many jobs will be completely transformed by automation, not everything can be automated. Such jobs include those focused on human-to-human interaction (like management) and more creative areas— the so-called “knowledge work.” And if you work in healthcare or education, rest easy, because according to the McKinsey report, these sectors currently have little potential for automation.

What skills will be in demand? And how can you be prepared?

The future of automation will all but eliminate the significant majority of jobs and tasks that are both predictable and repetitive. Yet certain skills, particularly those that are more creative, or “right-brained,” are much harder for machines to replicate. Interpersonal skills— those that require emotional intelligence— will be particularly valuable, as well. Technological understanding, coupled with creativity and a strong sense of EQ, will equip you to face an increasingly automated future. 

How will automation affect the economy?

Within the next decade, the impact that automation has on the economy will differ largely from country to country. By examining the five factors outlined in the report published by McKinsey, it becomes apparent that countries with labor surpluses or little wealth will be less likely to automate their workforce. But by 2030, the United States, India and China, will have displaced 38.6, 56.9 and 111.2 million full time equivalents respectively. In the short term, such significant displacements will certainly cause economic disruption (although, it won’t necessarily be a negative disruption). However, in the long term, the creative destruction of automation will keep in line with previous trends: increasing productivity and leading to the creation of new jobs.

To conclude

People often associate automation as being a bad thing because they are worried that robots are going to steal their jobs. If you remain cognizant of trends in automation, and put an emphasis on your development of creative and interpersonal skills, you won’t have to worry about the robots coming for you any time soon. 

Leave a Reply