(See my other Robot related posts) – We have all heard a lot about robots and automation taking jobs from humans. The article “Are Robots Coming for Our Jobs? Careful, It’s a Trick Question” tries to dispel some of those fears. It is from 2019, but the points are still valid today.
Much of that concern was generated by the paper “THE FUTURE OF EMPLOYMENT: HOW SUSCEPTIBLE ARE JOBS TO COMPUTERISATION?“. It was published in 2013 by Oxford economists Michael Osborne and Carl Benedikt Frey. In it, they claim that their research identified 47% of American jobs at risk.
Those jobs most susceptible were “insurance underwriters, telemarketers, tax preparers and sports officials“. Automation is least likely to affect jobs “requiring creative and social intelligence“. These would be “recreational therapists, mechanic and repair supervisors, and emergency management directors“. Other professions likey to avoid replacement are “dentists, dietitians, and elementary school teachers“. There will be some short-term impact but after worker skills adapt to the technology they do well. British economic historian Robert Allen calls this the “Engel’s Pause”.
Since then Frey has published the book “The Technology Trap: Capital, Labor, and Power in the Age of Automation”. In that book, he addresses the 47% claim in detail. Part of his explanation is that just because 47% can be replaced, there is no expectation that they will.
Historically the introduction of new technology has created more jobs than it has destroyed. The long term employment picture should be fine. Frey does make a couple of suggestions. Companies should provide some sort of wage insurance. Governments should also take financial measures.
Schools and universities must plan for the future. They need to prepare their students with the necessary technical knowledge. Frey suggests that worker’s attitudes will dictate how much automation will impact us.