Robots Are Taking Your Job

Robots have existed in business for many years, mostly in manufacturing. With recent technological advancements, it is now safe to say that robots are probably coming to take your job. While it may seem impossible that a robot can do your job, a serious look at what you do will probably reveal that at at least some, if not all, of your daily responsibilities can be performed by a robot.

This includes service jobs (servers at a restaurant, cashiers at your local supermarket, department store shelf stockers, cleaning staff at hotels, middle  and high school teachers, etc.) at almost every level. While it is probably required to employee some humans to provide interactions with other humans, robots can provide cheap labor for repetitive tasks.

Professional jobs (computer programmers, paralegals, nurses, pharmacists, financial planners, police officers, etc.) are not immune to this process either. While it is impossible to replace many of these positions with a robot, they can be used to augment humans to lower labor costs and reduce human errors.

In a book by Martin Ford, Rise of the Robots: Technology and the Threat of a Jobless Future, we learn about a near-future world where robots have taken over most human jobs.

In Rise of the Robots, Ford details what machine intelligence and robotics can accomplish, and implores employers, scholars, and policy makers alike to face the implications. The past solutions to technological disruption, especially more training and education, aren’t going to work, and we must decide, now, whether the future will see broad-based prosperity or catastrophic levels of inequality and economic insecurity. Rise of the Robots is essential reading for anyone who wants to understand what accelerating technology means for their own economic prospects—not to mention those of their children—as well as for society as a whole.

Martin Ford recently appeared on Wharton Business Radio (SiriusXM channel 111) to talk about how the robot revolution has affected businesses, what it means for your job, and what other impact robots may have in coming years.

On Wall Street, most trading is now done by algorithms. There have been lots and lots of jobs that have disappeared already, and again, the important thing is that in many cases, these are skilled jobs. It’s not about the skill level or how much education you have. The primary question is, is the job on some level routine, repetitive and predictable? In other words, can the actions that a worker undertakes in that field be predicted based on what they’ve done in the past?

If the answer to that is yes, then it’s going to be susceptible to machine learning, which is really the central technology that’s driving all of this. It’s a huge range of jobs, and it includes a lot of jobs that are good jobs that people need to go to school for. So that really kind of throws a wrench into our conventional thinking about how all of this has worked in the past.

A recent study (pdf) published by the State of Tennessee said 50% of jobs in Tennessee could be replaced by automation efforts.

• 1.4 million Tennessee jobs have a high probability (70 percent or higher) of replacement by automation. This represents 50 percent of Tennessee’s current workforce. Vulnerable jobs as a share of total employment range from 35.7 percent in Bledsoe County to 59.6 percent in Sevier County.

• Lower-wage occupations are more vulnerable to replacement by automation. The average hourly wage of jobs with a 70 percent probability of automation is $14.56, which is $5 lower than the state’s current average hourly wage for all jobs.

• If automation occurred in the occupations with at least a 70 percent probability of automation, 37 percent of the wages of workers in Tennessee could be lost.

• Rural counties are more vulnerable to the disruptive effects of automation. Of Tennessee’s 17 urban counties, only Hamblen, Loudon, and Bradley are ranked in the most vulnerable two-thirds of Tennessee counties.

• Tennessee regions most vulnerable to future workforce disruption are Northwest Tennessee and the Upper Cumberland. The Northern Middle and Greater Memphis regions are least vulnerable.

• Within the Southeast states, Tennessee is ninth-most vulnerable to future workforce disruption, where a rank of one represents high vulnerability and a rank of 12 represents low vulnerability. Virginia is the least vulnerable state (12); Mississippi is the most vulnerable.

 

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