Tuesday, 4 February 2014

What's the future of work?

Technological change at a breakneck pace means that many jobs are at risk of being replaced by automation or outsourcing.  A few years ago, driving a car was one task for which it was thought that computers could never replace humans.  Yet Google's driverless cars are now happily cruising the freeways of California, giving taxi drivers and truckers much to worry about.  

So what other jobs might be under threat?  Carl Benedikt Frey and Michael Osborne of the University of Oxford researched a wide variety of types of work and calculated the likelihood of jobs being lost to automation over the next two decades.  Bad news for shop workers, telemarketers and accountants, where the probability was well over 90%.  Better news for dentists, personal trainers and vicars, where the risk is well below 1%.  (Data from The Economist.)

It seems as though the safest place to be is a profession requiring person-to-person contact, where little standardisation of the work is possible.  There, or in a robot factory.

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