Create transformative innovation

Could a robot do your job?

There’s a 50/50 chance, apparently.

Could a robot do your job?

Researchers at the University of Oxford have found that 47% of jobs in the US are at high risk of being automated out of existence. [1]

More worrying still, the report identified just three skill areas that could save you from the robot economy:

occupations that involve complex perception and manipulation tasks, creative intelligence tasks, and social intelligence tasks are unlikely to be substituted by computer capital over the next decade or two.

Low-skilled work, such as food service and retail, is still reliant on face-to-face interaction, while high-skilled work is often too nuanced or creative to be hard-wired.

It’s middle-skilled work, like management and administration, that is currently taking the hit.

Meet your new manager: An algorithm.

This decade has seen many new start-ups automating what was once pure human services. Taxi company Uber employs armies of drivers that are briefed, managed, tracked, paid and even fired by automated algorithms. Creative work is becoming vulnerable, too, with companies like CrowdSpring using algorithms to manage graphic designers and writers.

“What’s bizarre here is that these lines of code directly control real humans,” warns Peter Reinhardt, co-founder and CEO of data and analytics firm Segment. “Humans are on the verge of becoming literal cogs in a machine, completely anonymized behind an API. And the companies that control those APIs have strong incentives to drive down the cost of executing those API methods.” [2]

The danger here is that algorithmic management not only destroys middle-skill jobs, but could remove on-the-job training, social connections and upward career mobility for the remaining majority of us.

Or is this just a doomsday scenario?

Mastering the robot economy: Use your head,

MIT economist David Autor admits that jobs will always be “destroyed” by technological change. However, he has found that, on average, this has not reduced unemployment levels or lowered earnings. It has done the opposite.

On average we’ve seen raised productivity, which has led to more mentally-stimulating, better paid and less dangerous jobs. [3]

“The three highly-robotized economies of the world – Germany, Japan and South Korea – have the lowest unemployment levels,” adds Ulrich Spiesshofer, CEO of the Swiss automation firm ABB. “The right combination between robots and humans safeguards jobs and safeguards humans.” [4]

We may not be losing our jobs, just adapting them.

If handled appropriately, robot could unleash creativity and innovation in our economy like never before. It’s up to us to nurture the social, creative and ethical prowess our companies will need to thrive alongside them.

 

Sources:

  1. Frey, Carl Benedikt and Osborne, Michael A. The Future of Employment: How Susceptible Are Jobs To Computerisation? University of Oxford, [http://www.oxfordmartin.ox.ac.uk/downloads/academic/The_Future_of_Employment.pdf] September 17, 2013.
  2. Reinhardt, Peter, Replacing Middle Management with APIs, Weblog, [http://rein.pk/replacing-middle-management-with-apis] February, 2015.
  3. Corbyn, Zoë, Robots are leaving the factory floor and heading for your desk and your job, The Guardian, [http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2015/feb/09/robots-manual-jobs-now-people-skills-take-over-your-job], February 9, 2015.
  4. Ranasinghe, Dhara, Why you shouldnt fear the robot revolution yet, CNBC, [http://www.cnbc.com/id/102587913], April 16, 2015.

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