Automation Armageddon – Fact or Fiction?

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Automation is transforming our economy. Job losses over the coming decades may be as high as 47 percent, some analysts predict. But how accurate are these warnings? Is your job at risk?

Take a deep breath

The reality is far more nuanced than many analysts let on. In fact, dire warnings about machine learning and augmented intelligence can be misleading. Context is key. So let’s take a step back and look at how many jobs (and what kinds) will be impacted by automation.

First, some automation data

Automation will displace almost 22.7 million jobs by 2025, according a Forrester Research report. However, the same report found that automation will create 13.6 million new jobs. The result will be a net loss of 9.1 million jobs between 2015- 2025.

A recent study by McKinsey & Company found that repetitive work activities are most likely to be automated. That includes data collection, data processing, and many types of physical or service work. This will heavily impact lower-skilled and lower-paid jobs. There are huge implications here. What is the future of labor, in a world powered by augmented intelligence? We can’t say for certain.

For now, this infographic from the McKinsey & Company report offers an interesting perspective:


Automation job losses in context

Let’s continue putting data into context. Next up: recent national employment trends.

Automation will eliminate nearly 900,000 jobs each year between 2015- 2025, according to the above report by Forrester. However, the U.S. economy adds an average of 2 million jobs each year. This means the ratio of jobs lost from automation, to jobs created by the larger economy, will be nearly 2:1.

In addition, every three months about 6 percent of jobs in the economy are eliminated, while a slightly larger percentage of jobs are added — resulting in a stable and declining unemployment rate. Since 2012, the unemployment rate has steadily declined by nearly 50 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The current unemployment rate of 4.4 percent is an all-time 10-year low. See this graph from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics:

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The upshot

Automation and augmented intelligence will create short- and long-term gains for both companies and workers. But they will also drive a fundamental reshaping of vast swathes of the economy. Many jobs will become automated, and entirely new industries will arise. What is the future of labor, in a world powered by augmented artificial intelligence? There are no certain answers.

Look for an upcoming blog post discussing the effects automation and augmented intelligence on productivity. In the meantime, we want to hear from you! What do you think about automation, augmented intelligence, and the future of labor? Tell us in the comments below, or tweet us @Lexalytics!

Categories: Artificial Intelligence, Insights, Machine Learning