Robots will replace almost 50 percent of jobs over next 20 years

Robots and computer programs could almost wipe out human workers in jobs from cooks to truck drivers, a visiting researcher has warned.

Driverless cars and even burger-flipping robots are among the technological advancements gunning for low-skilled jobs across dozens of industries.

University of Oxford Associate Professor in machine learning Michael Osborne has examined the characteristics of 702 occupations in the US, predicting 47 per cent will be overtaken by computers in the next decade or two.

Those most at-risk jobs are in accommodation and food services (87 per cent of workers at high risk of being replaced), transportation and warehousing (75 per cent) and real estate (67 per cent).

By contrast, only about 10 per cent of workers in the information sector, software developers and higher level management were at risk of automation.

Professor Osborne said machines and computers still struggled with creativity, social intelligence and the manipulation of complex objects, making jobs with high requirements in these areas less vulnerable to robotisation.

"What unites all those bottlenecks [in computer ability] is kind of a deep reservoir of tacit knowledge humans possess that's not readily reproducible in software," he said.

"For example, in order to be creative, you need to understand the creative values of the society in which you find yourself.

"It's very easy to design an algorithm that endlessly churns out paintings or pieces of music but it's very difficult to get that algorithm to distinguish between good pieces of music and bad pieces of music."

While the results, which Professor Osborne had been reproduced with similar results in the UK and Scandinavia, are bad news for individuals, they don't necessarily predict a sky-rocketing unemployment rate as machines take over the workforce.

History is full of examples of machines replacing workers.  Continue reading

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