by Umar Farooq
The U.S. has a higher percentage of jobs under threat by automation because more workers in the U.S. are employed in positions that require routinized tasks, like filling out paperwork. A new study from PwC estimates that 38 percent of U.S. jobs could be lost to automation in the next 15 years.
Other major advanced economies have fewer jobs at risk. The study estimates that 30 percent of jobs in the United Kingdom could be threatened by technical advancements in automation from AI and robotics, compared to 35 percent in Germany and 21 percent in Japan. Jobs most at risk of being done by new technologies are in industries related to transportation, manufacturing and retail. To arrive at these estimates, PwC broke down the types of tasks of various jobs in different industries. The researchers then applied an algorithm that took into account the “automatability” of those tasks and characteristics of the workers employed to do them.
“Many experts studying the topic of automation believe that the current rate of advancement is leading us into a future with fewer and fewer available jobs. Maybe that’s a good thing. In his 2013 essay, “On the Phenomenon of Bullshit Jobs,” David Graeber argued that in the wake of automation, we created employment for employment’s sake, not necessarily to fulfill any significant task or purpose. In 1930, John Maynard Keynes predicted that automation would create a 15-hour work week for everyone in Britain and the United States. Graeber argues that we failed to live up to this prediction, not because of a failure of automation, but because of the fear of the social effects that would occur when large numbers of people had large amounts of unstructured time.” S. Vollie Osborn
In short, the specter of automation is coming and it possibly may not be as bad as people fear. What if, instead of eliminating all human work, automation just gets rid of the mindless, boring jobs? Experts have predicted that at least some portion of the time and energy freed up by automation will be channeled into innovation, creativity, and diversification of interests. It’s yet to be seen what the economic structure of such a society will look like, as well as how motivation and incentives will be affected. If we have the opportunity to eliminate monotonous boring jobs, and make people more creative then we should probably embrace the automation as it will bring more economic prosperity.
by Umar Farooq