Automation and the Future of Employment

Automation and the Future of Employment

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Are robots going to steal your job? No. However, they already have. Think about it. From customer service to transportation, there are tons of instances where machines have replaced humans. Both automation and artificial intelligence are going to significantly impact the job market of the future. 

Automation is not a new concept. Think about the industrial revolution. The increased accessibility to machinery eliminated many employment opportunities.

Automation vs. AI

People often get confused about the differences between AI and automation. By definition, automation is the implementation of hardware or software that allows for automated actions. In contrast, artificial intelligence centers around “smart” software that is essentially designed to mimic human behavior.

Factors of Automation

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 is technical feasibility. It’s basically just the complexity of the task relative to the abilities of the system. The remaining factors include cost, supply and demand of labor, the potential for social or environmental change, and favorable regulatory conditions.

The End of Manual Labor

Higher degrees of automation will occur in sectors such as manufacturing and agriculture due to their repetitive nature. Workplace activities focused on the collection and processing of data are also easy candidates for automation. Even the financial sector is susceptible. According to the report, it is estimated that roughly 43% of all jobs in the financial sector could be automated.

While many jobs will be completely transformed by automation, not everything can be automated. Occupations focused on human-to-human interaction (management, education) and more creative professions are likely to stick around longer. It’s also important to note that the people building the tech for automation will probably the last to go before we start living in a world akin to The Matrix.

Preparing for the Future

Interpersonal skills, those that require emotional intelligence, will be particularly valuable. With current technology, it is extremely difficult for computers to mimic or detect human emotions. Someone with both technical and psychological expertise would be well prepared for future jobs.

Economic Impact

Within the next decade, the impact that automation has on the economy will differ largely from country to country. In general, countries with labor surpluses or less capital will be slower to automate their workforce. But by 2030, the United States, India, and China will have respectively displaced 38.6, 56.9, and 111.2 million full-time workers. In the short term, such significant displacements will certainly cause economic disruption.

Looking Ahead

People often associate automation with a lack of opportunity for humans. However, it can actually serve as a boost to productivity and create new jobs. As a society, we must be open to new technology and attempt to break traditional methods of action.

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