Think Your Job is Safe from Robots? You’re in Denial
Machines have been taking over our jobs for a long time. Ever since the industrial revolution began in the early 19th century, the human race has been racing ahead on a non-stop train to automation town. While the first factories obliterated countless jobs, for most of the past 200 years, the rate at which our jobs have been automated has been fairly steady and predictable.
However, a new surge in automation is upon us, the likes of which we probably haven’t seen since the 1800s. With the rapid advancement of computer technology, coupled with slow economic growth and widespread calls for a higher minimum wage, never have companies had more motivation to automate, as well as the means to do so on a wide scale.
In other words, many of the jobs that were once considered untouchable by robots, are about to disappear forever. By some estimates, nearly half of the jobs in the US may face automation over the next two decades.
Many of the first jobs to go will be low wage professions, since the workers in those fields are the most adamant about raising the minimum wage. Unfortunately for them, the writing is already on the wall. Their jobs are already being replaced with machines. Just this week it was revealed that the first automated grocery store was opened in Sweden.
And Domino’s just unveiled a new pizza delivery robot in Australia.
However, automation certainly isn’t going to end with these low-wage positions, and a lot of people are deluding themselves about that fact.
But even as we face the prospect of increasing automation, and fewer employment opportunities, most American workers remain confident – perhaps too confident. A look at some new numbers from Pew Research Center shows that worker sentiment toward the future speaks not just to inflated confidence, but perhaps a sense of denial.
The Pew brief cites a 2013 study from Oxford University, which says that as much as 47% of American jobs are subject to automation in the near future. In other words, as much as half of the American work force may be facing a serious employment crisis, and we’re really doing nothing about it. Using that as a starting point, Pew surveyed Americans to drill further down into this dilemma, and see how Americans feel about the unnerving prospect of mass automation.
As expected, a majority (two-thirds) do expect that within 50 years, robots and computers will take over most of the menial work from human employees. But – and here’s the big hang-up – a majority of workers also think that their own specific professions or jobs won’t be impacted.
65% percent of Americans understand that automation is going to wipe out nearly half of the job market, but 80% are at least fairly confident that their job won’t be automated in the next 50 years. I suppose it’s human nature. We all want to believe that our jobs are too sophisticated for a robot. It’s not only frightening to think that we could lose our jobs, but in a sense, also insulting to think that our jobs are simple enough for software to take care of.
However, we all need a reality check. Take a look at this job index. You can look up pretty much any kind of profession, and it’ll tell you the likelihood of that job becoming automated. There’s a good chance that you’re going to be shocked to find that you’re very replaceable at your workplace. I’m a writer, and even my job had a 33% chance of facing some degree of automation.
There’s a massive wave of layoffs and automation coming, and even some jobs that require problem solving and creativity may not be spared. Are you ready for that eventuality?
Joshua Krause is a reporter, writer and researcher at The Daily Sheeple. He was born and raised in the Bay Area and is a freelance writer and author. You can follow Joshua’s reports at Facebook or on his personal Twitter. Joshua’s website is Strange Danger.