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Robots Will Take Jobs … But When?

Everyone pretty much agrees that automation is having an impact on the workforce. However, there is much disagreement over how quickly automation is taking over and how negative of an impact it will have on employment.

J.P. Gownder writes, “There’s a lot of talk these days about how robots, software, and artificial intelligence will (or won’t) steal jobs. On one side of the debate you find denialists, like U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who believes that widespread impact on jobs is ‘50 or 100 years’ away. On the other side, you find steadfast pessimists: Analysts who believe that robots will replace as many as half the jobs in the economy, like Oxford scholars Carl Frey and Michael Osborne, or Martin Ford, author of Rise of the Robots.

“Each of these views holds elements of truth, but both are also fundamentally incorrect. Denialists are wrong, as automation technologies have replaced human jobs for more than a century, and this trend has been accelerating for 10 years. Advancements in artificial intelligence place additional classes of jobs—in white collar roles—at risk. Yet pessimists overstate their case. The revolution won’t happen overnight: Forrester predict[s] that by 2027, automation will have a strong impact on employment—but it won’t reach the level of a job apocalypse.

“Forrester laid out its latest forecast of how automation will affect employment. In this research, I predict several outcomes:

  • 14.9 million new jobs will be created. This is an aspect that is often overlooked: Automation will spur the growth of many new jobs, including some entirely new job categories. Demand for software developers will grow in concert with every type of automation technology, branching into new areas like robotics. Automation will also spur new opportunities for creative employment. One company, which just deployed a conversational chatbot, plans to hire a fiction writer. Why? To create an authentic, respectful engagement using appropriate “voice” and style.
  • 24.7 million jobs will be lost by 2027. This equates to a job loss of 17% between 2017 and 2027. Physical robotics will place increasing pressure on jobs like manufacturing, which have already faced significant hollowing-out in the U.S. Other production jobs—such as inspectors, testers, sorters, warehouse pickers, and packaging and filing machine operators—will decline, too. But white collar jobs are far from immune: Sales roles will take a hit from increasingly automated self-service, and office and administrative support jobs will suffer due to software automating tasks, from meeting scheduling to clerical work.”

Read the full article for more details.