That may sound vaguely dystopian, but it’s on the horizon. A 2013 study from Oxford University found that a whopping 47% of US jobs could be automated in 20 years.
Jobcase CEO and founder Fred Goff has seen fears about this trend crop up among some of the 70 million users of his blue-collar-friendly job site.
But he told Business Insider that the move toward automation shouldn’t scare people too much — not even those whose blue-collar jobs are already being automated.
He compared the current shift to the transformation of work that occurred during the Industrial Revolution. According to the New York Times, farmers made up of about 64% of the working population of the US in 1850. By 1920, that number was around 30.2%. Today, the American Farm Bureau Federation said that only 2% of Americans are farmers.
“If went back in time to the 1800s and said, ‘Hey, all these farming jobs are going to be gone’, then those people would think the sky is falling, right?” he said. “Because they didn’t know that there were going to be telemarketing jobs and customer service jobs and data entry jobs and all sorts of other things that came about later.”
Goff added that technological advances today are progressing far more rapidly than they did during the shift from agriculture to manufacturing. But that doesn’t mean that the rest of society will automatically shift to keep up with every single innovation.
“Will trucks become autonomous and get rid of all truck drivers?” he said. “Sure. I think that by 2100 that will happen. Maybe by 2030. But in the next five years? Are you kidding me? Even if it’s technologically possible, you’ve got to get through state laws, local laws, federal laws. You’ve got to get through the social constructs.”
He said that it’s often easy to get caught up in “the negative impact of technology” in the conversation about automation, but that the trend can ultimately provide “unbelievable opportunity” to those who take advantage of it.
Goff said that the key is to stay aware of advancements, be prepared to re-train to gain more marketable skills, and network to form valuable connections in your desired field:
“You’re only going to be able to benefit from these positive advances if you take control of it. My advice, fundamentally, is if you take the reins of your own work life — if you take control of things, there’s no reason to be intimidated. But if you’re not going to be open to change, if you’re not going to be working a little extra hard to keep at the forefront, and you just hope that the things you’re doing today are going to work five years from now, yeah, you’re going to be in trouble.”
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