Automation is a very real occurrence. Once considered mere sci-fi, robots are beginning to replace humans in certain job roles, and this is set to continue as the technology advances. You can already see the reality when you sit down in a restaurant and order your meal on a tablet.
Just how much robots will take over our workforce remains to be seen. A recent report states that only around 5% of jobs can be fully automated, yet over 60% of industries could be partially automated. The future looks bright for robots, but where does it leave us and who is likely to be replaced?
The debate is philosophical in some respects and practical in others. A robot can perform certain tasks more efficiently and more cost effectively than a human. The benefits for businesses are therefore obvious. Automation can be used to improve performance and speed, reduce errors, and in some cases lead to better overall quality and outcomes.
The human worker, on the other hand, provides interaction, chance for rapport, and (sometimes) real emotional connection, and many clients and consumers prefer this over the experience of being served by a robot. Indeed, one of the main barriers to automation is the expectation of the customer.
This is perfectly illustrated in a recent report about robot dealers in casinos, an industry that has always relied upon technology to drive its innovations. Technology now makes it possible for casinos to employ robotic arms to deal cards at the tables. Yet experts highlight that this wouldn’t necessarily enhance player’s enjoyment of the game. The technology is there, but the question is whether people would want it?
Regardless of the philosophical aspects of the debate, it’s likely that automation will occur most rapidly in jobs roles that take place in structured and predictable environments. According to the Mckinsey report, the following industries will be most affected: food service, manufacturing, agriculture, warehousing and retail. Each are likely to face more than 50% automation in the future.
The job roles that are least likely to be affected include management, information, health and social care and education. These jobs share certain commonalities. They are unpredictable, often involve social and emotional contact, and require creativity to maximize outcomes. These are the roles that machines find difficult to replicate.
Generally speaking, lower paid jobs tend to be easier to automate, but this is not a rule of thumb. Research suggests that 95% of accountancy could be automated in the future, and robots could play a major role in fields such as law, banking, and construction (yes, robot brick-layers).
The economic implications of automation are pretty dramatic. On the surface it appears that robots are going to make us all jobless, but experts believe that new roles will emerge and grow in areas such as computing and data sciences. As robots take over the world, we will also be thrust forward into more creative opportunities.
With so few industries facing full automation, most job roles are fairly secure for the near future. But automation is very real, and workers will have to face up to the consequences and look to new roles that robots cannot fulfill.
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