Robots will replace half of all jobs within the next decade, according to Chinese technologist Kai-Fu Lee.
The founder of venture capital firm Sinovation Ventures referred to artificial intelligence as being more significant than “all of human tech revolutions added together.”
“It will replace people.”
Robots to Take 50% of Current Jobs Within 10 Years?
Lee predicts that 50 percent of current jobs will be performed by robots within 10 years, but also adds that the sea change will wipe out poverty. Counter-intuitive as that sounds, technology has historically destroyed jobs while simultaneously creating new ones with better compensation.
Economist Daniel Lacalle cites the German region of Bavaria as a primary example. Its strides in automation has allowed Adidas to bring a portion of its manufacturing back into Germany, with its robot-powered Speedfactory performing the work of 1,000 Asia-based workers, while employing only 160 humans. Interestingly, the region only has an unemployment rate of 2.6%, implying that the modernization efforts did not actually destroy any local jobs. It’s unclear how many Asian employees were retrenched in favor of onshoring, however.
Research published in 2013 by technologists Carl Benedikt Frey and Michael A. Osborne attempted to predict the kinds of jobs that were most likely to be replaced by intelligent machines.
Mid-skill Office Workers Watch Out
On the chopping block, in their estimation, were middle-skilled workers such as insurance underwriters, tax accountants, and telemarketers, while more specialized professions such as doctors, scientists, entrepreneurs, and artists were deemed “the most secure.”
A website based on their research lists all 700 occupations analyzed in tabular form, sorted in order of those most likely to be replaced by robots. (Interestingly, recreational therapists were deemed the least likely to be supplanted.)
Leading AI scientist and director of research at Google Peter Norvig notes, however, that the “pace [of change] may be so fast that it will cause disruptions.” Norvig believes that social safety nets such as “universal basic income” need to be put into place for people whose livelihoods are eliminated before they can adapt.
That pace appears to be increasing.
Watson, the IBM-created AI that famously defeated Jeopardy! record-holder Ken Jennings, has made significant strides in the healthcare industry. In 2013, its diagnostic accuracy rate for lung cancer was a reported 90%, nearly twice that of a human professional.
Robot Reporters Coming Too
In 2015, the Associated Press published the results of their experiments in automated corporate earnings reporting, revealing that they were now generating over 1,200 stories per month via Wordsmith, a natural language generation engine.
Last month, it was revealed that Disney had filed a patent for a “soft body robot” that could act as interactive, child-safe companions within their theme parks, possibly reducing the need for human guides.
Protecting your job may not be as straightforward as simply avoiding certain professions, as automation is happening in all sectors at different rates. Technology advisor Shelly Palmer explains that people should use their “high-level cognitive ability to anticipate what parts of our work will be fully automated and what parts of our work will be so hard for machines to do that man-machine partnership is the most practical approach.”
“We’ve always been tool-users; now we will become tool-partners.”
Are you worried a robot will take your job too? Why or why not?
Images via CryptoPop, Disney