Last year Oxford associate professor Michael Osborne, along with coauthor Carl Frey, published a paper called “The Future Of Employment: How Susceptible Are Jobs To Computerisation?”
Their central premise: “The secular price decline in the real cost of computing has created vast economic incentives for employers to substitute labour for computer capital.”
To see how bad it can get, they took 702 occupations and calculated the odds of them getting replaced by robots. First, they divided the occupations into positive and negative responses to the following question: “Can the tasks of this job be sufficiently specified, conditional on the availability of big data, to be performed by state of the art computer-controlled equipment?” They then further sorted the fields according to a set of skills, like dexterity and originality, that they rated as having a greater or lower tendency toward computerization.
Osborne presented the paper today in London (Via Channel 4’s Faisal Islam
The main finding: 47% of total US
employment is at high risk of getting replaced by a robots, “meaning that associated occupations are potentially automatable over some unspecified number of years, perhaps a decade or two.”
Below are the results.
As we just mentioned, “47% employment” means 47% of the 702 occupations are at high risk of getting taken over. 19% could go either way. 33% are unlikely to.
They go on to sort the 702 occupations into 12 categories. The y-axis shows the number of people working in each of those categories, while the x-axis shows automization probability.
So, for instance, “sales and related” jobs have a huge chunk of positions that are at high risk of automization. Hence the big red section on the right. On the other hand, “education, legal,” etc. have a greater chunk of positions with a low probability of getting taken over by robots (hence the big light blue on the left).
Osborne continues, by noting which skills least susceptible to being replaced by a robot:
…”fine arts”, “originality”, “negotiation”, “persuasion”, “social perceptiveness”, and “assisting and caring for others”, variables, all exhibit relatively high values in the low risk category. By contrast, we note that the “manual dexterity”, “finger dexterity” and “cramped work space” variables take relatively low values. Hence, in short, generalist oc- cupations requiring knowledge of human heuristics, and specialist occupations involving the development of novel ideas and artifacts, are the least susceptible to computerization.
So if you’re, say, in the arts, and your job requires “negotiation” there’s virtually no chance you’re going to be replaced by a robot. If your job is in production or sales, and doesn’t involve any of the above skills, then watch out.
Osborne admits there are lots of caveats here. First, thee measure is inherently subjective. he also says we will eventually reach a “technological plateau” that represents the gap between automation of manual repetitive labour and automation of tasks requiring human-specific abilities.
But it looks like the writing’s on the wall.