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Robotics Businesses United States

45% of U.S. Jobs Vulnerable To Automation 625

An anonymous reader writes "A new report out of Oxford has found that the next 20 years will see 45% of America's workforce replaced by computerized automation. '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.' 45% is a big number. Politicians have been yelling themselves hoarse over the jobs issue in this country for the past few years, and the current situation isn't anywhere near as bad. At what point will we start seeing legislation forbidding the automation of certain industries?"
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45% of U.S. Jobs Vulnerable To Automation

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  • by liamoohay ( 765499 ) on Saturday September 14, 2013 @11:41AM (#44849019) Journal
    My father, an early pioneer of automated teaching (and a teacher himself) once told me that computers would soon replace teachers and, he added, not long after that they would replace the students too.
  • oblig (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Velex ( 120469 ) on Saturday September 14, 2013 @11:42AM (#44849025) Journal
  • by fyngyrz ( 762201 ) on Saturday September 14, 2013 @11:48AM (#44849075) Homepage Journal

    Yep. When AI arrives, very few jobs (other than things like ambassador to AI or positions in Luddite cults) are likely to require a human. Whether AI will see fit to participate in our job market is not intuitively obvious, though. Still, with AI in place, lower level robotics should be quite sophisticated.

    I've always thought that the current presumption that a job is required and inherently a good thing was an artifact of scarcity of labor. Remove the latter, and the former may well radically change.

  • by MickyTheIdiot ( 1032226 ) on Saturday September 14, 2013 @11:49AM (#44849081) Homepage Journal

    I think this isn't actually a troll... but a REAL posit...

    The first jobs to go when there are jobs automatable by real AI should be legislatures.

    Let a real intelegence that can't be biased by the current bullshit lobbying system write laws balanced for the common good of EVERYONE and reduce legislatures to one or two people per state as that can vote up or down.

    Obviously lots of holes in that half baked idea, but our major societal problem in the U.S. is a lack of real leadership. If you make the leadership job simpler and not affected by the plauge of the lobbyist then maybe we can have a society that works for everyone and not just the select few that can PAY for their free speech.

  • by MickyTheIdiot ( 1032226 ) on Saturday September 14, 2013 @12:08PM (#44849243) Homepage Journal

    Bullshit. Current political public relations says that jobs are the most important thing. The ACTUAL poltician doesn't give a shit about jobs because their corporate masters don't give a shit about jobs.

    I think Wisconsin is a great example of this. The "leader" of that state talks about bringing jobs to the state but it is just talk. The real agenda is to set up an environment where his corporate masters owe nothing to society or the country.

    The vast majority of our politicians care NOTHING about if their constitutents have jobs just as long as their corporate buddies get what they want. This was NOT true before 1980 and the era of big politics, a little less true before Citizens United, and absolutely true after Citizens United.

  • It's coming. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 14, 2013 @12:08PM (#44849245)

    Unfortunately we've got the classic "boy who cried wolf" scenario. When machines were replacing people in the 50s it was common to think everyone would be replaced. It didn't happen, because the machines replaced some people but still needed someone to run the machine. However, with advances in robotics we're going to start seeing the machine operators replaced. I expect within 10 years to see a fully automated car assembly line. So what happens to those people? Nothing, I guess. Those jobs won't come back and there won't be any jobs to replace them. We could just belittle them as "buggy whip makers" and say, "get educated so a robot can't replace you." But 1) there are only so many jobs for the educated, and 2) soon a lot of those jobs will be replaced too.

    I'm always amazed by people who say, "get educated and you'll get a job" then turn around and complain, "why can't I find a job I've got a degree and experience!" I don't get how they square saying if some uneducated guy gets a degree he'll magically get a job. There's almost a million auto workers in the US. They lose their jobs then get an education. Do we need a million more teachers? A million more lawyers? A million more programmers? The job market is tight so where are these million educated workers going to go? "Get educated and you'll get a job" is such an easy answer when you don't think about it.

    I was an attorney but then decided to do something else (great choice by the way). I expect a lot of mundane legal work to be automated within 10-15 years. First you'll see specialized paralegals do the work then second you'll see Google or LEXIS or West develop an automated system for them to use. Third you'll see that system be allowed for private use for a limited set of issues. What happens to those junior associates that used to do those cases? Do they all become partners? All start their own firms? No, they'll be out of a job. There isn't an infinite amount of jobs for law partners or law firms. We aren't in a situation like the industrial revolution or the 50s where machines helped streamline a process. Technology has advanced far enough to replace whole segments of work and render the worker unnecessary.

    It's neither a good nor bad thing it just is. But we can't act like we've been here before. This isn't the Industrial Revolution Redux, it's the automation revolution. We've got to deal with it one way or another, and just saying "get another job" isn't going to work this time. It's taken more than 100 years, but the warning of "these jobs are gone and never coming back" is finally going to occur.

  • by Psiren ( 6145 ) on Saturday September 14, 2013 @12:39PM (#44849497)

    Sounds like you're describing Iain M. Banks' post-scarcity Culture (I'm sure there are other sci-fi examples). That can't really happen until we have an abundance of energy and the ability to manipulate matter to create any material goods we may require. I don't see that happening for another millennia or so, assuming we last that long.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 14, 2013 @12:45PM (#44849553)

    What would people do without jobs?
    They would find something to do. Perhaps it would be something counterproductive or criminal but they would find something to do.

    People with food, shelter and health care can do lots of things. In polarized society where having a job is the difference between living and surviving, the masses will revert to a primitive "us vs them" mentality, everything goes against the upper classes. The upper classes (jobbed people) themselves will do their best to insulate themselves from the dirty plebs. Full blown feudalism.

  • by xelah ( 176252 ) on Saturday September 14, 2013 @12:47PM (#44849567)

    Of course it's not a good thing! Look around you at how many things there are worth doing with your life. Even if the basic dreary parts of production could be automated, there's no shortage of stuff out there to engage in - from the social, family and exploratory (travel the world, anyone?) to the intellectual (learning, research and the arts).

    The problem with it is not that it's physically impossible for everyone to live a happy life that way, but that it's socially and economically impossible. The way our society and economy works just can't cope with distributing that output well in those circumstances. At the moment the need for labour acts as a way to force that distribution, but imagine if controlling capital (the automated machines) were the only way to receive anything above a minimum politically acceptable income.

    A good example are the oil rich economies. There's enough oil money in some gulf states that no citizen really needs to do much useful work...but distribution of consumption becomes about political power and your position in society.

    To deal with it well we'd need a way to distribute ownership of the robotics properly - and keep it distributed properly - without destroying the incentives every economy needs to generate to organize it's production and consumption effectively. That's hard.

  • by modmans2ndcoming ( 929661 ) on Saturday September 14, 2013 @12:53PM (#44849611)

    The future is Communism! You let AI run the economy and the government commissions the investment in the building of the production plants, then people just get their stuff from the corner store using their pre-determined rations based on the AI computations.

    you righties think being "slaves" to "socialists" like Obama is bad...wait until the first real AI production plant reduces labor costs to nothing and we see a run-away train toward this future where we are dependent on automated production to survive. you either follow the law or die of starvation because you have forgotten how to take care of yourself.

  • by houghi ( 78078 ) on Saturday September 14, 2013 @12:54PM (#44849621)

    What would people do without jobs?

    Instead of having one person doing a 75 hour job and 2 people doing nothing, you could have 3 people doing 25 hour jobs. That way they still contribute AND have lots of time with friends and family and do whatever they desire.

    In an ideal world, the way to pay this is by giving the money that is saved by giving the job to automation to the people who were doing the job in the first place.

    However in the real world, we will have one person doing a 75 hour job and have no life and 2 people have nothing and ALSO have no life, just so the person owning it all get a little bit richer.

  • by sustik ( 90111 ) on Saturday September 14, 2013 @01:19PM (#44849821)

    Most people around me suffer from not having enough time to spend it with their family or on vacation or persuing arts or be politically active etc. The latter is actually a serious problem. There are people who tell me they do not vote because they do not know who to vote for because they have no time to keep up with politics. And when they say that they do not mean the 1 minute sound bites from TV etc. but instead reading research papers and in-depth analysis; maybe a whole book about issues like education, poverty, competition, issues of governence or philoshophy.

    Instead people spend time commuting to a job and overall more than *half* of their time awake time on a job. If you are an artist or researcher this may well be what you want to do, but I doubt this is the case for most.

  • by RabidReindeer ( 2625839 ) on Saturday September 14, 2013 @01:23PM (#44849853)

    I've always thought that the current presumption that a job is required and inherently a good thing was an artifact of scarcity of labor. Remove the latter, and the former may well radically change.

    Change to what? That having a job is not a good thing?

    There are two reasons why people have jobs

    1. To obtain the goods and services that make life at least sustainable, and preferably enjoyable.

    2. To satisfy the inherent human need to feel valued.

    We have been reducing the effort required for item #1 at an accelerating rate for centuries. That's the mirror side of productivity.

    For most people, item #2 has been their job simply because they needed to fulfil item#1 and historically people without jobs are not valued. To be valued, you must either exert significant physical exertion or be capable of showing a waiver in the form of a large paycheck.

    As we approach the point where full-time work is no longer required to satisfy item #1, our first response has been to jettison enough people to keep the remaining workers fully-occupied, and along with that, instill enough fear into them that they have to work even harder/longer. But we are by all accounts reaching a tipping point where the number of unemployed and underemployed are rising to levels that cannot ignored and the number of people who truly need to be employed is shrinking.

    We have not yet come up with suitable alternatives for item #2. That, I think, is the real challenge. When George Jetson really can work grueling 3-hour workdays and still be considered as a valued member of society.

  • by TheRaven64 ( 641858 ) on Saturday September 14, 2013 @01:44PM (#44850023) Journal
    Sounds like the Brave New World solution is required. Stop demonising drugs, and make freely available drugs that give a sense of euphoria and lethargy. If people don't want to do anything with their lives other than take drugs, then let them get on with it in a non-destructive (to people other than themselves) way and remove themselves painlessly from the gene pool.
  • by Nadaka ( 224565 ) on Saturday September 14, 2013 @02:35PM (#44850387)


    You wouldn't be giving away free snorkels and swim fins.

    You would be selling them, and a large portion of your profit would be taxed.

    Those taxes (along with the taxes on all over profit) would pay for each citizens basic minimum income.

    The majority of that basic minimum income would pay for things like rent, food, utilities and transportation.

    As a luxury goods producer, you won't be getting much of that back.

    However, the people who do the remaining 55% of work will still be buying luxury goods like swim fins and snorkels. And since that 55% of work will likely be spread over more than 55% of the population, they will have more time to actually use those swim fins and snorkels in their free time, driving your profits higher.

    This maintains a capitalist system even in the face of recognizing survival as a basic human right and allowing the government to actually defend that right.

  • by sidthegeek ( 626567 ) on Saturday September 14, 2013 @03:17PM (#44850701)

Some people manage by the book, even though they don't know who wrote the book or even what book.