Please see below selected recent automation-related change,
- Farm equipment giant John Deere launched a new autonomous tractor. The large tractor can plough fields and plant crops without the need for a human driver. As of 2022, John Deere made half of all farm machinery sold in the US.
- Industrial robots are gaining traction in factories around the world - a trend that’s likely to continue given wage and labor market pressures. There are now an average 126 robots per 10,000 employees in the manufacturing industry, up nearly 2x compared to 2015’s average (66 robots). Asia is home to the highest industrial robot density, followed by Europe, noted CB Insights.
- The World Economic Forum's The Future of Jobs Report 2020 found that automation will require 97 million more people to work in fields like data analysis, digital marketing and software development. So, managers able to coach knowledge workers will be in serious demand because outdated management practices torpedo the performance of professionals.
- The FT noted that workers have long feared robots would take their jobs. But today, the tables have turned as logistics and delivery companies automate their businesses to tackle labour shortages. The monotony of some jobs makes recruiting and retaining workers harder, a growing problem across a range of sectors. Banks, for example, are automating boring “grunt work” to stop a talent drain. In US and European warehouses, the pandemic expansion in online shopping has also accelerated the switch to automated systems and robots.
- An increase in AI software systems within the legal profession sparked a conversation about whether ‘robots’ could take over certain roles. The BBC citeed app DoNotPay, which offers users advice on the best legal language to use when writing letters about insurance claims, complaints to a business or holiday refunds as making inroads into automation in the field. Trial lawyers are using document-tracking software to analyse case files four weeks faster than humans could do it, while Deloitte uses TAX-I software system to analyse historical court data for similar tax appeal cases.
- A widespread shift towards robots is underway is major sections of the US economy. Faced with a shortage of human labour, noted Business Insider, McDonald’s trialled automated drive-thru ordering in ten Chicago locations. Automation expert Erik Brynjolfsson says there are good reasons to believe this isn’t just a blip. Via AI and robots, he has claimed, we’re at the outset of a long productivity boom. // The key challenge now? We need to ensure that the benefits of this shift are widely dispersed. There are around 13,000 McDonald’s Drive Thrus in the US alone. What are the people who work there going to do next, asked New World, Same Humans?
- In the US, the Federal Aviation Administration issued its first approval for a company to run fully-automated commercial drones. Meanwhile, UPS partnered with telecoms firm Verizon to launch a new drone delivery service.
- Around 50% of work tasks will be done by machines by 2025, according to the World Economic Forum, with data entry, administration and factory assembly jobs most at risk. However, while the rise of the machines will eliminate 85 million jobs, it is expected to create 87 million new ones particularly in care, big data and the green economy. The research, spanning 300 of the world's biggest companies, also warns the pandemic has hastened automation and half of all employees will need to upskill or retrain in the next five years.
- Researchers from Columbia University said CEOs and senior executives are changing the way they speak on quarterly earnings calls, in order to cater to the algorithms they know are listening. They’re reportedly avoiding words known to trigger negative algorithmic judgement, such as ‘claimants’ and ‘cease’ and placing more stress words that AIs seem to like, such as ‘improving’ and ‘innovator’.
- Automation remains one of the most powerful forces reshaping the world around us in the 21st-century. In the decades ahead automation will be an irresistible force sweeping across the economy. according to one estimate, automation technologies will eat 800 million jobs by 2030. The hard reset forced on many businesses by the coronavirus pandemic is likely to accelerate this.
- Automation will worsen inequality in wealthy countries. This transition to new forms of work won't come easy. People with skillsets better suited to the digitized workplace will have a much easier time than people expected to develop those skills from scratch. The result could intensify the inequality that has already stoked populism and upended political establishments in so many countries in recent years. Robots pose a special challenge in emerging markets. Hundreds of millions of jobs are at stake in lower-wage countries that have operated for decades as factories for the world's textiles and light manufacturing industries. The International Labour Organisation has warned, for example, that 140 million jobs in Southeast Asia alone are at risk of automation in the next 15 years. That's more than half the region's salaried labour force. And that was before the coronavirus pandemic created new reasons for companies to turn to robots in order to safeguard their production and supply chains against future disruptions.
- Robots are good at working with knowledge that we already know. However, they aren't yet strong when it comes to developing original ideas: alhough robots are good at jobs founded on patterns and data points, they currently don't excel when it comes to soft skills — that is, they have difficulty dealing with human behaviour: people's soft skills help them make sense of chaotic environments where the dynamic human element is constantly in play.
- Brookings drilled into which jobs may be most affected by AI’s role out. By analysing AI-related patents and job descriptions, they endeavoured to find statistical associations which help understand ‘AI exposure.’ Better-paid professionals and production workers may be most susceptible to AI’s spread in the economy; these are the groups who were less impacted by previous waves of automation.
- For years, there has been a lot of talk about robotic process automation (RPA), but this talk is slowly translating into substance. So, as boards begin to take the tech seriously, what opportunities and obstacles do C-level executives face when it comes to adoption? A successful RPA programme can cut operating costs significantly, improve operational efficiency, increase the volume of work the company can take on and improve the work-life balance for employees.
- Manufacturing companies which adopted robots between 1990 and 1998 actually increased the number of (human) jobs by more than 50% in the subsequent two decades, whilst companies which did not adopt robots reduced their jobs by more than 20% over the same time period, according to a new study.
- A report from the Economist’s Intelligence Unit makes it clear where inside companies the push for more automation is overwhelmingly emanating from: the C-Suite. Senior executives are almost universally enthusiastic about automation and AI, whilst their concerns about worker displacement are limited, despite 29% citing ‘employee resistance’ as one of the major barriers to automation. Data privacy and security were also singled out as significant issues holding back automation efforts.
- OECD analysis pointed to the proportion of jobs it deemed to be at high or significant risk of automation. Although most of its members are developed countries, it also included a number of countries deemed to be “emerging” by various organisations, and they are predominantly the ones in the line of fire. Of the 28 OECD countries analysed, the 11 adjudged to have the smallest proportion of jobs at “significant” risk are all developed. In contrast, all 11 emerging countries are among the 17 deemed most vulnerable to job losses.
- Advances in artificial intelligence and remote communication will arguably impact manufacturing more than any other sector, given that half of all roles within the industry involve manual and routine work. And yet, despite a large portion of jobs being at high risk of automation, job losses may not be as severe as feared as manufacturers upskill workers to adapt for a new technological future, according to Raconteur's latest survey.
- A 2019 poll commissioned by the Campaign to Stop Killer robots found that 61 percent of respondents across 26 countries favoured a ban on “lethal autonomous weapons systems” that can attack and kill without human intervention.
- Robotic process automation (RPA) software is streamlining workplace functions at large banks, including data entry, document review, transaction processing, and more. CB Insights mapped out 90+ startups using AI and machine learning to automate banking operations, from fraud detection to customer identity verification.
- Research from PayPal, UC Berkeley, and the Indian Institute of Management found that over three-quarters of the workers most vulnerable to automation had little or no concern about it, and had little savings to rely on if they lost their jobs.
- Retraining workers displaced by robots could cost an estimated $34 billion in the US alone and taxpayers could bear most of the cost.
- How to prepare the middle class for automation argued that, even in the most positive scenarios for automation and the labour force, there will be a difficult adjustment period in which entire classes of people will struggle to find their place in the new economy.
- A Raconteur infographic looked at the rise of Robotic Process Automation (RPA) worldwide and how it is making businesses more efficient. Through automating and optimising repetitive tasks, RPA is increasing quality of work and reducing risk in business processes.
- The robotic process automation (RPA) market is booming, according to Exponential VIew. It hit $1.7bn in 2018 and will more than double in the next three years. Enterprise adoption is faster than expected and it is likely to directly impact the ways in which many organisations and employees work in the relatively near future. RPA is a route into white-collar automation, often sold as a way of reducing headcount.
- Many companies claim that this is not the case: Walmart, for example, is rolling out 360 autonomous floor-cleaning robots from Brain Corp. According to a Walmart VP "BrainOS is a powerful tool in helping our associates complete repetitive tasks so they can focus on other tasks within role and spend more time serving customers".
- A Raconteur infographic looked at the rise of RPA worldwide and how it is making businesses more efficient. through automating and optimising repetitive tasks, increasing quality of work and reducing risk in business processes.
- Large majorities (74-91%) of people across 10 markets think automation will have a negative impact on employment, reported TrendWatching.
- When Pew surveyed nearly 10,000 people across 10 markets, large majorities believe that robots and computers will do much of the work currently done by humans.
- Organisations in every region and industry are automating at least some business processes, yet only a slight majority have succeeded at meeting their targets, according to a new McKinsey Global Survey on the topic. As advances in AI, software robotics, machine learning, and innovative technology platforms enable businesses to redefine processes, workplace automation is expected to provide a significant opportunity for improvements in performance and efficiency.
- Raconteur warned that extreme inequality, occasioned by widespread automation, should be a major concern for politicians the world over, far more pressing than job losses in manufacturing alone.
- Farms should embrace automation, claimed Quartz, arguing that organic practices do not scale and will not feed the world at an affordable price point.
- Further reading:
- By 2022, 54 percent of all workers will have a “significant” need to boost their skills to deal with advancing technology, according to a new World Economic Forum survey, with over a third requiring additional training of up to six months. Governments around the world are grappling with how to prepare their workforces for the jobs of the future.
- Less and less work done by humans will be in the routine tasks that define most work today, argued the Harvard Business Review. In part, this will be because machines will be able to perform this work far better than we humans can. But a much more compelling reason will be because this work will be less and less relevant to what businesses will need to create value as customers generally become more demanding and their needs shift. The focus of work will shift to activity that draws on the far more human capabilities that machines will find much more challenging to replicate
- Meanwhile, the author of The Robots are Coming: A Human's Survival Guide to Profiting in the Age of Automation, sees plenty of white collar jobs that will be threatened by automation.
- Further reading:
- Today’s young professionals grew up in an age of mind-boggling technological change, seeing the growth of the internet, the invention of the smartphone, and the development of machine-learning systems, noted the Harvard Business Review. These advances all point toward the total automation of our lives, including the way we work and do business. It’s no wonder, then, that young people are anxious about their ability to compete in the job market. HBR shared seven skills - including communication, context and teaching - that HBR believes not only makes people unable to be automated, but will make then employable no matter what the future holds.
A new Populus survey commissioned by the RSA suggested workers should be less alarmed about the prospect of losing their job to a machine, and more with how it will affect the way they go about their work. This includes how they are recruited, the degree to which they are monitored, and whether their jobs are orchestrated from above. Automation is a threat to some jobs, but not to work writ large. For all the talk of self-driving cars, checkout-less supermarkets and fully automated warehouses, machines are still constrained in what they can do. Moreover, they tend to eliminate tasks rather than whole jobs, and often expand the capabilities of workers.
A new report from Capgemini's Digital Transformation Institute revealed that the financial services industry could expect to add up to $512bn to global revenues by 2020 through 'intelligent automation', the right combination of robotics process automation (RPA), artificial intelligence (AI), and business process optimisation applied cohesively to achieve business objectives.
While believing there will be enough work to go around (barring extreme scenarios), McKinsey noted that society will need to grapple with significant workforce transitions and dislocation. Workers will need to acquire new skills and adapt to the increasingly capable machines alongside them in the workplace. They may have to move from declining occupations to growing and, in some cases, new occupations. McKinsey's executive briefing examined both the promise and the challenge of automation and AI in the workplace and outlined some of the critical issues that policy makers, companies, and individuals will need to solve for.
- As robots and automation take over jobs, there will still be some occupations where humans will be preferred. Theoretical physicist and best-selling author Michio Kaku analysed the kind of job skills people will need to have to stay employed and relevant in the near future.
- Will there be enough work in the future? What’s the likely impact of our continuing technology advances on jobs? How will they impact productivity? These are all-important questions to reflect on as our increasingly smart technologies are now being applied to activities that not long ago were viewed as the exclusive domain of humans. While no one really knows the answer to these questions, most studies of the subject have concluded that relatively few occupations, 10% or less, will be entirely automated and disappear over the next 10 - 15 years.
- Automation offers tremendous potential for leaders looking to drive transformation in their organisation, argued EY: from cost savings and increased delivery speed, to new operating models, to higher value activities for employees. With “business as usual” no longer possible post-automation, leaders must navigate risks unrelated to algorithms, such as maintaining employee morale, building support for change and helping teams adapt to new ways of working throughout the reshaped organisation.
- Autonomous vehicles aren’t ubiquitous just yet, noted PwC. Only 9% of manufacturers have adopted autonomous mobility within their operations. But the cost savings potential will be enormous.
Dominic Kelleher 2017 paper on automation:
In the distant future, no one needs to work. Energy is available wherever people can set up a solar panel, windmill, or hydro-turbine. Artificial Intelligence (AI) units, distant descendants of today’s 3D printers, are capable of producing anything a person can program into them. Just by asking, anyone can have anything they want. People trade energy credits or donate energy to projects that interest them.
See for example HBR on "Computers Create Jobs and Inequality at the Same Time".
This is the post-labour economy imagined by today’s sci-fi writers. Indeed, science fiction has been speculating on what post-labour economies might look like for more than 100 years, In a post-labour economy, people don’t need to work in order to live or access goods. In fact, work has nothing to do with wealth or value.
But sci-fi authors are no longer the only ones interested in the post-labour economy. Recently, economists and political theorists have been debating what shape the system might take and grappling with the challenges that it will present. They need to find answers quickly – as for some, the post-labour economy is almost here.
The accelerating improvement in the dexterity, agility, versatility, and intelligence of robots raises a number of hard questions about the future of human society. Employees in increasing numbers of professions find themselves under threat of being displaced by robots, algorithms, and other AIs. The pace at which existing professions are being disrupted and transformed by new technology looks set to outstrip the speed at which humans can re-skill and re-train.
According to the Director-General of the International Labour Organisation:
- Already, every year, an additional 200,000 industrial robots come into use. In 2015, the total is expected to reach 1.5 million. Adapting the labour market to a world of increasingly automated workplaces will be one of the defining challenges of our era.
- No country can afford to ignore this transformation. Globally, some 200 million people are unemployed, up 27 million since 2008. There is a critical need to anticipate coming technological changes and provide the global workforce with the education and skills needed to participate in the modern labour market.
- By 2050, the global population will surpass nine billion. The number of people aged 60 years and over will have tripled. Three-quarters of the elderly will be living in what are now developing countries, and the majority of them will be women. These demographic shifts will further revolutionise the labour market, social-security systems, economic development, and the world of employment.
He concludes that in addition to training the labour force for an age of further automation, sustainable economies must offer protections for workers in good times and bad. The nature of a worker’s relationship with his or her employer is changing. People entering the labour market are increasingly finding only short-term or temporary contracts; often, they are forced to take informal work or emigrate for a job. These trends are exacerbating income inequality.
As a result, mitigation policies are necessary. Along with a robust system of unemployment benefits, social protections such as healthcare and pensions are essential for overall worker security and to ensure a healthy economy. And yet only 20% of the world’s population has adequate social-security coverage; more than half lack any coverage at all.
In response, a group of London Futurists recently assembled an international panel of writers with important things to say on the subject of the future of work (see video for detailed discussion of their ideas).
However, this is a topic on the minds of not only futurists, but also increasingly of business leaders. Indeed, the 2015 World Economic Forum in Davos discussed how artificial intelligence (AI) has the potential to solve difficult social problems, help us think faster and become more efficient, but the impact on our daily lives will be pronounced, so how do we reap the benefits while avoiding negative consequences?
Technology can now do many more things that used to be unique to people:
- Rethink Robotics’ Baxter, a dexterous factory robot that can be programmed by grabbing its arms and guiding it through the motions, sells for a mere $25,000 (equivalent to about $4 an hour over a lifetime of work, according to a Stanford University study).
- ISOFT’s Amelia, a virtual service desk employee, is being trialled by oil industry companies, such as Shell and Baker Hughes, to help with employee training and inquiries.
- Meanwhile, doctors are piloting the use of Watson, IBM’s supercomputer, to assist in diagnosing patients and suggesting treatments.
- Law firms are using software such as that developed by Blackstone Discovery to automate legal discovery, the process of gathering evidence for a lawsuit, previously an important task of paralegals.
- Rio Tinto’s “mine of the future” in Western Australia has 53 autonomous trucks moving ore and big visions for expansion.
- Even the taxi-sharing company Uber is in on the act – it has just announced it will open a robotics research facility to work on building self-driving cars.
The upshot will be many people losing jobs to software and machines, says Silicon Valley-based futurist Martin Ford, whose book The Rise of the Robots comes out this year. Meanwhile, nearly half of almost 2,000 experts recently surveyed by the Pew Centre said technology will have displaced more jobs than it creates by 2025.
Indeed, the UK Sunday Times suggested recently (February 2015) that Amazon, for example, creates less employment than it creates, notably in retail. One study reportedly suggested that the company employs only 14 people for every $10m in sales; a high-street chain would employ 47 people for the same sales.
Ford’s book follows last year’s influential The Second Machine Age by Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee, business school academics at the Massachusetts Insitutute of Technology (MIT) Sloan School of Management. They also warned we face significant overall job loss from computers, robots and automation unless we institute radical change. There is no economic law that says technological progress has to result in job creation and shared prosperity, they say. Rather, we are about halfway into a century-long transformation that moves us from merely automating physical work to automating mental work, a process that started with the first computer boom in the 1970s. The effects are just becoming noticeable now because exponential growth by its nature takes time to build up.
Indeed, PwC has itself recognised this accelerating trend. The New Era of Automation report suggests, inter alia, that:
- 53% of all occupations are estimated to be replaced by digital technology within the coming twenty years. That is almost 300 million jobs within the OECD-region.
- Computers have already surpassed our abilities, in areas where we earlier had the “human advantage".
- When the first machine age matured, processes began to change to really exploit the new technology – resulting in a tenfold productivity increase. We are now facing a similar shift in the second machine age, with the automation of knowledge work.
All the necessary technologies are already here, or will mature within the next 5-10 years and thus be readily available. Both the cost and barrier to automate will then go down rapidly. Early adopters and innovators have already begun their journeys and there is a strong momentum right now in certain areas. The speed will be different depending on industry and function, but all will go through it in one way or another.
Two new studies, one from a group of Oxford University academics, another from analysts at the Gartner Group, both say the invasion of the smart machines is coming quicker than most of us think
b)The study from the Oxford Martin Program on the Impacts of Future Technology, says the same thing on a slightly different time scale. Their analysis shows that 45 per cent of American jobs could be taken by computers within two decades.
In short, our current economic model where rich people bring their capital and everyone else brings their labour may no longer work when the capital, in the form of robots and computers, is actually the labour too.
Indeed, an even newer report from the Oxford Martin School and Citi calls for long term thinking to mitigate the negative effects of an ever more automated and digital economy. The latest Citi GPS Report, Technology at Work: The Future of Innovation and Employment, explores trends in automation and points to sluggish job creation caused partly by increasing automation. The report highlights the key challenges, explores some of the new technology brought on by the digital age and sets out an agenda for change, arguing that secular stagnation in the digital age can only be avoided by a shift towards inclusive growth.
Implications for businesses and individuals
As with all previous major technological changes, organisations and individuals will be affected. What is different from previous shifts is that the current one affects all aspects of a company's value chain. Both the individual and the organisation need to adapt to deal with this new shift. Possible responses include the following:
- If competitors start to automate their processes, companies have a large incentive to keep up to be equally cost-effective.
- The cost of classical means of outsourcing is increasing mainly due to higher labour costs in outsourcing countries. Together with reduced control when offshoring drives companies to find onshore alternatives – automation is an obvious candidate.
- Many occupations are getting increasingly complex and more difficult for a human being to handle efficiently. Adding support through machines and technology could improve the efficiency and quality of these processes.
- Talented individuals are becoming more difficult and expensive to attract and retain for organisations. Automation could therefore lower the pressure of finding people with highly specialised skills.
An individual will need to adjust him-/herself and his/her ability to be able to relate to and work with computers and software. As individuals, we will need to understand where we add value and where a computer can fulfil tasks without our supervision. What is routine and where do we make a difference? We will also need to constantly review our abilities. Training and the ability to take on new and other roles will increase in importance.
Implications for society
The UN has warned that global unemployment levels were expected to rise further over the next five years, and that by 2019, at least 212 million people worldwide could be out of work -- up from 201 million in 2014. This, the UN warns, could eventually contribute to “social unrest” among unemployed youth across the globe.
We may even already have seen social unrest as a result of people losing jobs to technology, through movements such as Occupy and the Tea Party.
The UN also found that that South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa accounted for three quarters of the world’s vulnerable employment - referring to people in the workforce who are the least likely to have formal work arrangements and access to social protection programmes.
An Oxford University report published last year concluded that 35% of UK jobs were at high risk of disappearing in 10 to 20 years because of automation. An earlier study of the US, which has more manufacturing, suggested 47% of jobs were at high risk.
Yet the picture painted by the doomsayers does not resonate with many economists. Jobs will always be “destroyed” by technological change, says David Autor, an economist at MIT, citing how there are not many trained firemen (they shovelled the coal into steam locomotives), typists and lift operators left in advanced economies. But this has not reduced employment in aggregate or lowered earnings levels on average. It has done the opposite: raised productivity on average and led to more interesting, more cognitively challenging, better paid and less dangerous jobs.
For the IMF, part of the solution for a world with too much supply and too little demand needs to be public investment in infrastructure, which is lacking – or crumbling – in most advanced economies and emerging markets (with the exception of China). With long-term interest rates close to zero in most advanced economies (and in some cases even negative), the case for infrastructure spending is indeed compelling. But a variety of political constraints – particularly the fact that fiscally strapped economies slash capital spending before cutting public-sector wages, subsidies, and other current spending – are holding back the needed infrastructure boom.
The question for many then is what do humans do next?
Recommendations for policymakers include boosting entrepreneurs to enable them to invent the new industries and jobs necessary to replace the old ones and refocusing education to emphasise creativity and interpersonal skills.
Many float the idea of basic guaranteed incomes for everyone, or tax credits to supplement low-wage workers. In the UK, the Green Party is working on the idea of “citizens’ income”, and the Swiss population already held a referendum on a national minimum wage in 2014 (though rejected, many expect the topic to arise again soon, in Switzerland or elsewhere).
There are optimists too of course, as this imagined headline from 2025 well illustrates.
With robots paying labour tax, the 99% can be as idle and as comfortable as the elites
Dateline: 4 July 2025
We're living in the age of abundance. The age of the algorithm. The age of... well, automated utopia.
Who would have thought that this soon, with machines doing all the work, we would also have found the solution to technological unemployment? The point is, just as horses became unemployable with the invention of engines, so humans became unemployable in the age of seriously smart machines.
We call it "Roboearth." When a robot arrives from the factory, it's essentially lifeless; it can't do anything useful. But once it's powered up and connected to the robot internet, it can find out how to do anything, from the cloud. So it doesn't need any programming.
Again comes the question: If we don't need human programmers, and even the robots are designed by algorithms and built and maintained by robots, what do people do?
The solution was to tax the robots. Their labour tax goes towards providing everything that humans need for their daily enjoyment of life. Sure, if you want something more than Roboearth normally provides, you have to get up and get creative, really inventive, and invest in something even the algorithms haven't thought of. Something analogue. Then you can charge your own form of 'tax' on the machines.
For the rest of us, it's just, well, so simple. Or is it? Who's really in charge here? Us or the machines?
- An associate professor of education and economics at Harvard University, showed that in recent years, many jobs requiring only mathematical skills have been automated. Bank tellers and statistical clerks have suffered. Roles which require predominantly social skills (childcare workers, for example) tend to be poorly paid as the supply of potential workers is very large.
- Outsourcing is being disrupted by the innovations in robotic process automation, which could cut labour costs and free workers from boring tasks. The implications of this are discussed in a new Raconteur report along with how outsourcing is no longer reserved for big corporations as more start-ups and small business are realising the advantages to be had.
- In the next few decades, about 56% of all salaried workers in Cambodia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam could be displaced by automation and advanced technologies, such as 3D printing. That at least is the conclusion of an extensive series of new studies by the International Labour Organisation.
- Asking "what’s the future of the workplace?", an MIT professor predicted that new technologies will enable more decentralised decision making and ultimately more freedom in business.
- See also: Only Humans Need Apply, by Thomas Davenport and Julia Kirby and Robots: Friend or foe? - Financial Times.
- Surgeons are one of the first professional groups to deeply integrate sophisticated robotics systems into their methods, and the result is that surgery itself is radically reconfigured. But as with others that have already crossed this threshold - like pilots -the rush to integrate the latest robotic system may obscure the need for wholesale revisions to training methods so that humans can learn to perform even better in collaboration with robotic systems.
- Of the more than 229,000 industrial robots sold in 2014 (the most recent statistics available), more than 57,000 were sold to Chinese manufacturers, 29,300 to Japanese companies, 26,200 to companies in the U.S., 24,700 to South Koreans and more than 20,000 to German companies. By comparison, robot sales in India totaled just 2,100, the International Federation of Robotics reported.
- INSEAD considered whether an unconditional, universal “citizen’s income” could ensure a fairer distribution of the benefits of technology and transform economies in the process. Although digital technologies, robotics and artificial intelligence continue transforming the way we work, produce and live, technological change is no longer unanimously viewed as the undisputable driver of prosperity as it was in the past. The benefits of technology are increasingly flowing to the top one percent of the socioeconomic pyramid at the expense of workers. Technology is at least partly responsible for a polarisation of jobs in many developed countries: a decline of middle-skill occupations accompanied by the growth in both high and low-skilled occupations, with the high-skilled earning more and the low-skilled earning less. There are more and more voices pointing out that this winner-takes-all society will inevitably give way to a new social contract as social inequalities increase. Certainly, letting innovation and the more productive firms flourish is good for the economy. But the divergence between productivity and wages suggests that it is time to re-think how to distribute the benefits of technology.
- According to Oxford university economists Dr Carl Frey and Dr Michael Osborne, 40% of all jobs are at risk of being lost to computers in the next two decades. Though much has been said about the jobs that will be lost, Frey points out that we don’t know what type of new work automation will create. We have already seen a shift away from agriculture and manufacturing jobs; now as more jobs become automated in what Frey terms the “computer recession”, we will see the disappearance of repetitive, low-skilled work, he says. “And we don’t know specifically what new sectors will create jobs in the next decade or two.”
- An army of robots is on the move, warned the Financial Times. In warehouses, hospitals and retail stores, and on city streets, industrial parks and the footpaths of college campuses, the first representatives of this new invading force are starting to become apparent. The arrival of the robots - and their potentially devastating effect on human employment - has been widely predicted. Now, the machines are starting to roll or walk out of the labs. In the process, they are about to tip off a financing boom as robotics - and artificial intelligence - becomes one of the hottest new markets in tech.
- Across China's manufacturing belt, thousands of factories are turning to automation in a government-backed, robot-driven industrial revolution the likes of which the world has never seen. Since 2013, China has bought more industrial robots each year than any other country, including high-tech manufacturing giants such as Germany, Japan and South Korea. By the end of this year, China will overtake Japan to be the world’s biggest operator of industrial robots, according to the International Federation of Robotics, an industry lobby group.
- The financial services industry has undergone sweeping change over the last eight years managing different waves of regulatory, customer, technology, competition and market challenges. While many today remain focused on the implications of the digital revolution and its impact on customer expectations and behavior, new opportunities are also emerging. One such technological innovation – robotic process automation (RPA) or robotics – is changing the way that banks, insurers and capital markets firms execute basic processes.
- According to the Financial Times, dystopian visions of a future in which machines sweep millions of people out of work are as old as technological change itself. What is missing from today’s debate about the march of the robots is an appreciation of the crucial role of labour bargaining power. When labour bargaining is weak, the Luddite fear of mechanisation is worth taking more seriously. The latest bout of anxiety is driven by the potential of machines to replace not just human brawn but human brains as well, opening up whole new areas of work to potential computerisation. Research by Oxford academics found that almost half of current US employment is now vulnerable to this process, while Bank of England analysis puts up to 15m UK jobs at risk.
- Free trade, offshoring, and automation - the driving forces behind globalisation - have demolished a third of manufacturing jobs in the US, nearly 7m in all, according to a Financial Times article. This long-term trend, dubbed “the China shock” by the economists David Autor, David Dorn and Gordon H. Hanson, has accelerated in recent years. The arrival of cheap Chinese imports has supplanted manufacturing in scores of US communities, produced widespread unemployment, disrupted workers’ careers, and depressed wages.
- Business Insider found that 1.3 million industrial robots would be installed between 2015 and 2018, and this would more than double the stock of active robots around the world. While many of those robots will be used in the automotive and electronics sectors, there are many other roles that robots will be filling in the future. According to McKinsey, not all of these jobs are low-skill, low-wage jobs, either. McKinsey ran a comprehensive study of nearly 800 different jobs in the US, ranging from CEOs to fast food workers. Between these roles, they found 2,000 individual work activities, and assessed them against 18 different capabilities that could potentially be automated. In its analysis, McKinsey found that 45% of work activities representing $2 trillion in wages can already by automated based on proven technology that currently exists.
- A robot anaesthesiologist designed by Johnson & Johnson is going off the market. Only three years after approval, the company has stopped production on the machine due to poor sales. Nevertheless, there are risks that robots could potentially put whole professions out of a job - especially when that profession involves years of training and expensive education. In many countries, more and more people are facing very high healthcare costs and systems such as the one discontinued by J&J cost one tenth as much, per procedure, as a human anaesthesiologist.
- If the machines are taking all the jobs, how come so many people are working? So asked strategy+business, focusing on the US market. The unemployment rate is at 4.9 percent. There are 143.6 million Americans with payroll jobs, a record. The number of first-time unemployment claims is down more than 10 percent from last year, and is bumping along at levels not seen since the 1970s. Oh, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics says there are 5.5 million job openings in America, close to a record. All at a time when rapid technological change and adoption are destroying jobs. It’s a strange dichotomy, the magazine concludes.
- A new report from the Oxford Martin School and Citi considered the risks of job automation to developing countries, estimated to range from 55% in Uzbekistan to 85% in Ethiopia - a substantial share in major emerging economies, including China and India (77% and 69% respectively). The report, 'Technology at Work v2.0: The Future Is Not What It Used to Be', builds on 2013 research by Oxford Martin School, which found that nearly half of US jobs could be at risk of computerisation.
- In 'The Upside of Automating Part of Your Job', the Harvard Business Review argued that while many processes are being automated, fewer than 5% of jobs are likely to be fully automated, and machines will do the things you didn't want to do anyway.
- Eurasia Group pointed to the "startling" impact of technology on the nature of employment. By 2021 a wide range of industries are likely to have their labour model dramatically changed by information technologies, particularly in the fields of automation and artificial intelligence.That's going to be a global challenge, but it's a particularly acute medium term problem for emerging markets, where middle classes are closer to an absolute poverty line and political institutions are more brittle. Those governments that can't quickly evolve their social contracts to meet their own middle classes' expectations could see spiralling social instability (itself also empowered by many of the same technological developments).
- About two-thirds of Americans expect robots or computers within the next half century will take over many of the jobs now performed by humans. But not their jobs.. “Even as many Americans expect that machines will take over a great deal of human employment, an even larger share (80%) expect that their own jobs or professions will remain largely unchanged and exist in their current forms 50 years from now,” the Pew Research Centre in a new report on public expectations for workforce automation.
- In The Robots Are Coming for Wall Street, The New York Times warned that hundreds of financial analysts are already being replaced with software, and asked which office jobs are next.
- The race to provide robo-advice is accelerating, claimed the Financial Times. Fund managers, banks, brokers and financial advisers are all adapting their business models to fend off the competitive threat of automated online investment services. Although still a fledgling industry, robo-advice has rapidly become a priority for some of the world’s largest asset managers. They recognise the potential for low-cost online advice to attract new audiences, particularly the young.
- McKinsey analysed the detailed work activities for 750+ occupations in the US to estimate the percentage of time that could be automated by adapting currently demonstrated technology. Its conclusion? At present, automation is largely of tasks, not jobs. 20% of CEOs' time is on routine tasks, but that doesn't mean 20% of CEOs are at risk.
- The future of financial advice could be part-human, part-robot with hybrid advisers potentially managing up to 10 per cent of global investable wealth by 2025. Robo advice — where consumers input information online to generate suggested investment routes — has proved a huge growth area in the financial advisory market, as companies seek to provide inexpensive and rapidly scalable forms of reaching customers. Funds advised by hybrid robo-human services - where automated recommendations are supplemented by more personal advice - could grow to $16.3tn worldwide over the next nine years, according to Myprivatebanking.com, a Swiss financial research company.
- Scientists warned that rapid strides in the development of artificial intelligence and robotics threatens the prospect of mass unemployment. Intelligent machines will soon replace human workers in all sectors of the economy, senior computer scientists told the American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting in Washington.
- The professor of computational engineering at Rice University in Houston claimed that the rate at which robots and intelligent machines are mastering human jobs could leave more than half of the US population unemployed within 30 years. Speaking at the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Professor Vardi warned: “We are approaching a time when machines will be able to outperform humans at almost any task. I believe that society needs to confront this question before it is upon us.”
- In the real world, professional services leaders must recognise much of the work they hand to juniors is repetitive servitude, open to automation, warned the Financial Times. Such work is often imposed on the tacit assumption that, if they had to do it, so should the new generation. Clients may still prefer dealing with human experts but they do not much like paying for their juniors’ billable training. However, knowledge can be imparted in other ways, including simply by working closely, apprentice-style, with senior colleagues.
- Better Living Through Robots - Businessweek
- PwC's Strategic Bite "The robots are coming , what does this mean for us as a firm?"
- Digitisation and the rise of robots could lead to huge job losses, but will also create new opportunities. the Financial Times reported from the World Economic Forum on how gains from artificial intelligence could be distributed.
- Automation isn’t just for blue-collar workers anymore. Computers are now taking over tasks performed by professional workers, raising fears of massive unemployment. Some people, such as the MIT professors Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee, identify automation as a cause of the slow recovery from the Great Recession and the “hollowing out of the middle class.” Others see white-collar automation as causing a level of persistent technological unemployment that demands policies that would redistribute wealth. Robot panic is in full swing. But these fears are misplaced, argued The Atlantic: what’s happening with automation is not so simple or obvious. It turns out that workers will have greater employment opportunities if their occupation undergoes some degree of computer automation. As long as they can learn to use the new tools, automation will be their friend.
- In the 'A World Without Work?' session at Davos, the panel discussed how rapid technological progress and the prospect of longer, healthier lives will revolutionise work.
- Office and administrative jobs, as well as roles in media, manufacturing, construction and general maintenance, could soon be swallowed up by robots, according to new forecasts. As many as 7.1m jobs could be lost through redundancy and automation, with the greatest losses in white-collar office and administrative roles, according to an in-depth report on the future of jobs by Swiss-based World Economic Forum. he authors say the world is in the middle of a new industrial revolution, with artificial intelligence, robotics, 3D printing and genetics and biotechnology set to "cause widespread disruption".
- As automation sweeps across the world, we face challenging questions about how we work - and how we play. On the one hand, we are designing ourselves out of ever more jobs, leaving us disengaged. On the other hand, games and countless internet-enabled game-like activities are powerfully addictive. Is designing work to be more like play the answer or is there something fundamental about human abilities that we’re overlooking in how we deploy technology in our lives? In a new Aeon interview, a leading UK writer discussed what it means to be our best selves in a time of automation.
- While technology enters its next golden age, the percentage of adults working or looking for work is the lowest in almost 40 years in countries such as the United States. Is the Fourth Industrial Revolution failing the middle class, asked the World Economic Forum in Davos.
- The Fourth Industrial Revolution, which includes developments in previously disjointed fields such as artificial intelligence and machine-learning, robotics, nanotechnology, 3-D printing, and genetics and biotechnology, will cause widespread disruption not only to business models but also to labour markets over the next five years, with enormous change predicted in the skill sets needed to thrive in the new landscape. This is the finding of a new report, 'The Future of Jobs', published by the World Economic Forum.
- In 'Leave robotic jobs to robots and improve humans’ lives', the Financial Times warned that we are so fixated by human-like machines that we have failed to notice machine-like humans. However, subsequent feedback to this article argued inter alia that it is not low-paid work where automation leads to big gains. It’s high-paid work, and here lots of workers are vulnerable - including lawyers, journalists and software engineers.
- Raconteur published a new infographic on new technology changing the way we work.
- Will robots replace people at work? Rapid advances in technology, from big data to artificial intelligence, are revolutionising the way we work and businesses are keen to capitalise on resulting efficiency gains. Raconteur's latest report explored workplaces of the future, including the impact of virtual reality and wearable technology, gamification in the recruitment process, the rise of the freelance economy and top business technology trends for 2016
- Futurology hosted an online discussion on the most endangered jobs of 2016.
- Deloitte announced a partnership with robotic process automation specialist, Automation Anywhere. The partnership is aimed at capitalising on rapid growth in robotic process automation as companies look to augment their existing workforce by blending in cognitive-capable robotic elements.
- Which jobs can’t be done by robots? from the World Economic Forum claimed that robots are coming for our jobs. But it will be ages before they take jobs you think can be done only by humans, right? After all, humans possess unique advantages such as “interpersonal skills.” Well, it’s not that simple. The robots might be coming for your job, even if you think it seems safe.
- The Royal Society of Arts argued that a universal basic income payable to all, including children and pensioners, can improve incentives and rewards for work, increase human freedom and dignity, and give society and citizens the flexibility we need to thrive in a world of demographic change and accelerating technological innovation.
- McKinsey conducted research into the impact of automation on jobs and organisations. The most important insight so far has been that it is far more useful to think about the activities that can be automated rather than entire occupations - handing over discrete bits to machines, like pulling out the most useful data from an analyst’s report, generating a report on the latest sales figures, or moving products around a warehouse.
- Reddit hosted a discussion inviting responses to the question: when 90% of the population no longer work and we have something akin to basic income. What will a normal life be? Apropos,Finland's government is drawing up plans to give every one of its citizens a basic income of 800 euros a month and scrap benefits altogether. A poll commissioned by the agency planning the proposal, the Finnish Social Insurance Institute, showed 69% supported the basic income plan.
- China is laying the groundwork for a robot revolution by planning to automate the work currently done by millions of low-paid workers. The government’s plan will be crucial to a broader effort to reform China’s economy while also meeting the ambitious production goals laid out in its latest economic blueprint, which aims to double per capita income by 2020 from 2016 levels with at least 6.5% annual growth. The success of this effort could, in turn, affect the vitality of the global economy. The scale and importance of China’s robot ambitions were made clear when the vice president of the People’s Republic of China, Li Yuanchao, appeared at the country’s first major robotics conference, held recently in Beijing.
- Real estate billionaire Jeff Greene warned that technology will kill white-collar jobs. He says new forms of technology will only exacerbate the growing gap between the rich and the poor, because, he claims, we have left ourselves unprepared for the inevitable automation of many jobs traditionally done by humans. He said: “What globalisation did to blue collar jobs and the working class economy over the past 30 or 40 years, big data, artificial intelligence and robotics will do to the white collar economy - and at a much, much faster pace.”
- Will computers take your job? According to a new book by a financial journalist, they’ll take the “cognitive” work but not the “interaction jobs”. For a long time to come, those positions will need real people with "authentic empathy". Many people get a buzz from collaborating with other people, and computers can’t replace that. New socioeconomic value, 'Humans are Underrated" argues, could therefore derive from innate human skill at engaging with others – collaborating, bonding, creating, caring and giving.
- Investing in robots would create more, not fewer, jobs for the UK’s embattled manufacturing industry, according to research from Barclays. Its Future-proofing UK Manufacturing report says an extra £1.2bn of investment in robots could boost the economy by as much as £60.5bn over the next decade. That would help the manufacturing sector to grow by £38bn to £191bn by 2025, and would safeguard more than 100,000 jobs, not just in manufacturing, Barclays argued.
- According to a former UK government minister, while robots and automation will create problems for particular industries and the people working in them, the economy as a whole can adapt, and we will not depart from the path of industrialisation in which jobs change radically and old ones disappear, but the number of people in work keeps growing. Technological advances bring extraordinary benefits to consumers, as goods become cheaper and new products are created that no one could have foreseen.
- 'Rise of the Robots', the Financial Times book of the year 2015, envisages a world of fewer jobs and relentless pressure on both manufacturing and professional workers, as machines take over an increasing range of tasks. If action is not taken, it argues, inequality will increase.
- Looking at the next wave of automation and its impact on employment, McKinsey suggested it is not just low wage, low skilled jobs at risk - the threat goes all the way up to the CEO. McKinsey said, “The potential of artificial intelligence and advanced robotics to perform tasks once reserved for humans is no longer reserved for spectacular demonstrations by the likes of IBM’s Watson, Rethink Robotics’ Baxter, DeepMind, or Google’s driverless car. Very few occupations will be automated in their entirety in the near or medium term. Rather, certain activities are more likely to be automated, requiring entire business processes to be transformed, and jobs performed by people to be redefined". Not only low-skill, low-wage roles, but also the highest-paid occupations in the economy, such as financial managers, physicians, and senior executives, including CEOs, have a significant amount of activity that can be automated.
- Few will be spared in the robot revolution as millions of jobs are destroyed, warned The Telegraph. It also quoted the Bank of England’s chief economist warning that half of all British jobs could be replaced by robots.
- New Pew research on AI, robotics and the future of work found that experts envision automation and intelligent digital agents permeating vast areas of our work and person life by 2025, but they are divided on whether these advances will displace more jobs than they create.
- In Robots may shatter the global economic order within a decade, The Telegraph warned that robots could take over 45% of all jobs in manufacturing and shave $9 trillion off labour costs within a decade, leaving great swathes of the global society on the historical scrap heap. Bank of America predicts that robots and other forms of artificial intelligence will transform the world beyond recognition as soon as 2025, shattering old business models in a whirlwind of “creative disruption”, with transformation effects ultimately amounting to $30 trillion or more each year.
- Project Syndicate also noted that, while this is an age of anxiety about the job-killing effects of automation, with dire headlines warning that the rise of robots will render entire occupational categories obsolete, such fatalism [wrongly] assumes that we are powerless to harness what we create to improve our lives - and, indeed, our jobs.
- In Will Robots Put You Out of a Job, Or Give You a New One?, Design News concluded that over the long term, productivity increases and advances in technology have always created more jobs.
- In One Algorithm to Rule Them All, strategy+business argued that we’ll likely see is unemployment creeping up, downward pressure on the wages of more and more professions, and increasing rewards for the fewer and fewer that can’t yet be automated.
- In Will automation replace our jobs?, the professor of management practice at London Business School, discussed the impact of automation trends in the workplace, and in particular how this will affect the work of internal communicators.
- KPMG’s recent piece, Bots in the Back Office: The Coming Wave of Digital Labour explored the ‘withering’ BPO industry. KPMG’s report said “The concept of labor arbitrage as the primary value lever of business process outsourcing (BPO) is dying. The geographic discussion is giving way to automation."
- On the Edge of Automation: five hundred years from now, says venture capitalist Steve Jurvetson, fewer than 10 percent of people on the planet will be doing paid work - Technology Review
- The executive director of research at Nesta believes that London can buck the trend of jobs being lost to automated technology or “robots”. Research conducted by Nesta with Oxford University has shown that Britain, especially London, has unusually high numbers of jobs that depend on creativity, human interaction and other skills not possible with the use of technology alone - CityAM
- The jobs that AI can't replace - BBC, 13th September 2015
- Will a robot take your job? - BBC, 11th September 2015
- Should humans fear the rise of the machine? - The Telegraph, 2nd September 2015
- The economic myth of robotics and the robot job-ocalypse - Financial Times
- Automation angst: Three new papers examine fears that machines will put humans out of work - The Economist
- New world of work: digital marketplace reshapes casual labour - Financial Times
- For centuries, experts have predicted that machines would make workers obsolete. That moment may finally be arriving. Could that be a good thing? - The Atlantic
- Which jobs are doomed? - Futurology
- Governments are enthusiastically raising the minimum wage of workers. But how high can they go without being harmful? - The Economist
- When it comes to automation it is the web of processes built around our day to day lives , not rogue robots, which should cause us concern
- Will opposing universal basic income in the future be equivalent to opposing the freeing of slaves 150 years ago? - Reddit.com
- Robots are coming for your job: Amazon, McDonald’s and the next wave of dangerous capitalist “disruption”
- Scarce Skills, Not Scarce Jobs: the "real" challenge technology presents isn't that it replaces workers, but rather displaces them.