Nearly Half Of American Jobs Are Likely To Be Eliminated By Computers Over The Next Two Decades

american jobs

Humanity is nearly obsolete. MIT Technology Review writes:

Rapid advances in technology have long represented a serious potential threat to many jobs ordinarily performed by people.

A recent report from the Oxford Martin School’s Programme on the Impacts of Future Technology concludes that 45 percent of American jobs are at high risk of being taken by computers within the next two decades.

The authors believe this takeover will happen in two stages. First, computers will start replacing people in especially vulnerable fields like transportation/logistics, production labor, and administrative support. Jobs in services, sales, and construction may also be lost in this first stage.

Then, the rate of replacement will slow down due to bottlenecks in harder-to-automate fields such engineering. This “technological plateau” will be followed by a second wave of computerization, dependent upon the development of good artificial intelligence. This could next put jobs in management, science and engineering, and the arts at risk.

25 Comments on "Nearly Half Of American Jobs Are Likely To Be Eliminated By Computers Over The Next Two Decades"

  1. Capital G | Sep 26, 2013 at 2:48 pm |

    This wouldn’t be bad news if we weren’t stuck in a capitalist mindset. Less work needed to maintain our standards of society SHOULD be a good thing, it just means more free time for everyone, but only if we share our profits.

    Scientists at the dawn of the 20th century thought that with increases in technological sophistication, people of the future (us) would be working 10 hour weeks, with free time spent bettering ourselves and our communities. This WOULD be the case by now, but those savings have instead gone to make a small group of ultra-wealthy even more wealthy.

    • DeepCough | Sep 26, 2013 at 5:38 pm |

      Well, the owners of the companies have a lot of free time. Can’t say much the same for their workers.

      • With a 25% de facto underemployment/jobless rate in the USA, much of Europe looking forward to a 50% unemployment rate for the young and the Japanese job market dropping faster than their population, I’d say that there’s a lot of free time amongst the populace. It’s just unpaid, meaning lots of people being forced into poverty…or onto various doles.

        Why else do you think China’s been building all those empty cities? Otherwise they’d have an unemployment problem to go with an aging problem flying at them at warp speed.

        • DeepCough | Sep 27, 2013 at 2:58 am |

          I thought those empty cities were an investment boondoggle, what with the fact that they couldn’t get anyone to pay for the living space.

    • Thanks for putting my thoughts into a coherent comment. I was having trouble doing so 😉

  2. Most innovations eliminate some jobs – not to many blacksmiths around. But, I see the point of the article. It’s more than being obsolete in your field it’s that there are a rapidly diminishing opportunities which offer re – training and a job.
    It’s not so much the amount of innovation but rather, the speed at which the change is occurring… it’s future shock. Many consider the rapid development as the forerunner to the “singularity”

  3. Simon Valentine | Sep 26, 2013 at 4:24 pm |

    don’t count on it.

    calculus can’t solve n-body for 4 or more bodies, nor for the majority of 3s ill-luck… feel free to resolve with non-theoretical methods or proposals… not that knowing the cage is freedom…

    say hello to The Gray Hole for me. and Tim. i’m going back to Nim (lol).

    oh. gray hole isn’t astrophysics so much as a conformation of rigid principle and dreams … it’s what makes a book so much fra&&ing better than a movie.

  4. …and the other 55% of jobs will all be prison guards.

  5. BuzzCoastin | Sep 26, 2013 at 7:46 pm |

    this has already happened
    most office workers are merely computer helpers
    and retail counter people are computer helpers & change collectors
    but when a computer can grow food
    or build a shelter
    I’ll be impressed and a little freightened

    • Seeing an increasing number of hack-a-day projects relating to small-scale agricultural automation. UC Davis has had interesting projects relating to automating mechanised ag for quite a few years, but now, incentives are shifting so we can expect these projects to be exiting the lab. Vat-grown meat in automated facilities aside, I really don’t see any reason that poultry couldn’t be grown in robofarms.

      Ever seen the work on 3D-printing houses?

      That said, IMO, from our POV, this is going to take longer than expected from what a First Worlder would see. Many of the jobs slated for the robo-ax have already been offshored. Ag isn’t really all that big an employer.

      • BuzzCoastin | Sep 27, 2013 at 11:33 am |

        I shoulda qualified my statement
        when computers start growing real food
        I’d be surprised
        they been producing fake food with computers & robots
        for decades now

        • Automation doesn’t care what it grows. The more labor-intensive parts of organic food growing better suited for robots than people. RSI not a problem for bots.

  6. kowalityjesus | Sep 26, 2013 at 9:23 pm |

    wtf? Computers replacing jobs in the arts? Isn’t that one of the few remaining unreachable bastions of humanity?

    • I’ve seen photo booths that “draw” your picture, complete with erasures and redrawings. Heck, I got a program that shoots your picture and turns it into line art without the drawing animations. Plus, almost all games of extreme skill are beatable by computers.

      • rhetorics_killer | Sep 26, 2013 at 11:54 pm |

        Show me a program capable to compete the Sistine Chapel by Michelangelo and I will follow your course. With the appropriate skill to manage a stylish unmistakable personal design, also.

        • kowalityjesus | Sep 27, 2013 at 1:32 am |

          give me an A.I. that exhibits ‘angst’ and we will start discussing such notions.

          • rhetorics_killer | Sep 27, 2013 at 8:50 pm |

            Anxiety cannot provide it all alone; there is something we name ‘beauty’ also, a feature we still fiercely debate on what it damn can mean. A.I. may fail to understand what vocabulary fails itself to catch.

    • Qebesut Aker Usekhnemmet | Mar 5, 2014 at 5:41 am |

      Art is a recording of one’s own feelings, so yes, I guess an AI can be created, capable of doing so. however, some pieces of art are more than simply a record, they are an Idea born, becoming a Source for further feelings… if an AI can become self conscious, capable of programming itself without the predefined codes…well, I Welcome the New Preponderant Species!

  7. I work as an interpreter for the courts. Wonder how long it’ll be before interpreters are replaced by a smart phone app?

    • Bluebird_of_Fastidiousness | Sep 27, 2013 at 7:57 am |

      If autocorrect is any indication, your job is safe for a long while.

  8. As someone who’s staring down this threat (Transportation. Truckers will be first, bus drivers next, then us cab drivers – assuming I’m not pushed aside by the truckers first), I don’t find this surprising. And while I’m a favorite of my boss, I’m sure he’ll have no problem firing me in favor of technologies that run 24 hours/day with no need for food, potty, exercise stops or returning to base at the end of the working day.

  9. JohnFrancisBittrich | Sep 27, 2013 at 11:05 am |

    Every reputable computer scientist I know laughs out loud at the suggestion that we will have something even resembling workable AI in two decades. Kurzweil and his type like to ignore this because it doesn’t fit into the ridiculous little cosmology they’re so desperate to believe in. But seriously, we’re not even close. Unless there is a sudden discovery that is absolutely disruptive and world-changing which nobody in the world can see coming, it’s still gonna be decades before any serious advancements are made even in little things like natural language processing, much less full AI.

  10. Manny Perez | Sep 27, 2013 at 1:52 pm |

    And then the revolu
    tion will start….

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