How safe is your job?

By Frank Hemsley, on Mar 22, 2018

In December 2016, the White House, under Barack Obama, released a report that focused on a major trend with important implications for the US economy. The name of the report was Artificial intelligence, automation, and the economy1.


It looked at the potential economic impact of machines learning to do tasks that have long required human labour. With technological advancements comes automation. And that means certain roles become susceptible to being replaced by machines.


How susceptible do you think your job is?

Read on and with the help of our tool you’ll be able to get a good idea...


The automation of jobs is not a new phenomenon. Think of ATMs counting out cash and taking in bank deposits – once the work of a human cashier. Or automated check-ins at the airport. Indeed, new technology has been taking on the work of humans since the dawn of the industrial age in the 18th century. And anticipating the effects of automation on the economy is no new challenge for the American government.


Automation is not our enemy. Our enemies are ignorance, indifference, and inertia.

Back in 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson set up the National Commission on Technology, Automation, and Economic Progress2. The aim of the commission was to examine the impact of technology on the economy and the job market. It’s not that the Johnson Administration feared the advances of technology. At the time, Johnson remarked:


Automation is not our enemy. Our enemies are ignorance, indifference, and inertia. If we understand it, if we plan for it, if we apply it well, automation will not be a job destroyer or a family displaced. Instead, it can remove dullness from the work of man and provide him with more than man has ever had before.3

Nevertheless, it was important for the government to understand how the US economy and its workforce might adapt when faced with new technologies.


Where does your job sit on the probability scale? Why not take a look?Using the data from Frey and Osborne’s study, we’ve created a test called:


How susceptible is your job to computerisation?
Automation is not our enemy. Our enemies are ignorance, indifference, and inertia.

Tutorial

Input your job description to see if it’s in the data set and find out how safe your job is.

One factory in China has replaced 90% of its human workers with robots already
app thumb How this compares with other jobs: 319 366 of

The number of factory workers in manufacturing has fallen sharply because of technological intervention, enabling machines to take on the heavy labour.


One factory in China has replaced 90% of its human workers with robots already, a move which it says has resulted in fewer defects and an increase in production.


Robots now carry out the majority of tasks on their own, meaning only a few human staff members are required to keep an eye on them and carry out maintenance.



Nevertheless, it was important for the government to understand how the US economy and its workforce might adapt when faced with new technologies.


Fast forward 52 years and the Obama-commissioned 2016 report covered much of the same ground, albeit with automating technologies that much further down the road. The report concluded that the effects of AI-driven automation would present significant challenges for future Administrations. It recommended ongoing discussion and engagement between government, industry and the public to make the most of AI’s effects on the economy.

One factory in China has replaced 90% of its human workers with robots already
barack obama
This year, artificial intelligence will become more than just a computer science problem. Everybody needs to understand how A.I. behaves.
Barack Obama
Former President of the United States
barack obama

And there have been various independent studies that have taken up the challenge to discuss the AI and automation issue. And not just in the US. For example, a 2017 report from consultancy firm PwC found that 30% of jobs in Britain were potentially at risk from AI.4


This is most likely to affect routine tasks, where machines are already taking over. The report claims more than 1o million UK workers, with the majority in retail sales roles, are at risk.

Creative and critical thinking will be highly valued, as will emotional intelligence.

But not all jobs are under threat.


PwC’s head of technology and investments, Jon Andrews said AI and automation will rebalance what jobs look like in the future, and that some are more susceptible than others.


He explained that in the future, knowledge will be a commodity so we need to shift our thinking on how we skill and upskill future generations. Creative and critical thinking will be highly valued, as will emotional intelligence.


So, if you’re in a job that requires creativity, judgment and opinion, you’re probably safer than someone on the retail shop-floor.


Returning to the US economy and job market, there is an eye-opening report titled The Future of Employment: How susceptible are jobs to computerization?5


It was put together by Carl Benedikt Frey and Michael A. Osborne and published by Oxford Martin School at the University of Oxford.

Creative and critical thinking will be highly valued, as will emotional intelligence.

Using probability theory and other inputs, the authors looked at 702 specific jobs and how vulnerable they are to developments in technology.


In other words, how susceptible those jobs are to computerisation.


Remarkably, they arrive at the conclusion that as much as 47% of total US employment could be automated in a decade or two.


More specifically, they found that 12 of the 702 jobs they looked at had a 99 per cent chance of being automated in the future.6


These included data entry keyers, accounts clerks, watch repairers, telemarketers and insurance underwriters.


The common thread running through the 12 is that they all have a predictable pattern of repetitiveness.

And that means that computer algorithms can replicate the process.


At the other end of the scale, Frey and Osborne found that eight out of the 702 occupations had a 0.35 per cent or less chance of being computerised based on current technology.


These ‘safe’ jobs, such as various therapists, social workers and mechanical supervisors, also have some things in common.


That’s a level of expertise achieved by lots of study and the requirement for human interaction.


And between those two polar extremes are lots of other jobs with varying levels of threat from computerisation.


The Oxford study found that most jobs are either very likely or very unlikely to be automated.

You can see that in this chart reproduced from The Telegraph:


Most jobs are either very likely or very unlikely to be automated

Number of occupations sorted by likelihood or very unlikely to be automated


50 100 150 0 0-10% 10-20% 20-30% 30-40% 40-50% 50-60% 60-70% 70-80% 80-90% 90-100%

DATA: OXFORD UNIVERSITY

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