The Robots Are Coming—Could Your Job Be at Risk?
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Robots are coming for our jobs, and they are gaining on us fast.

Earlier this month, market research firm Forrester said by 2021, machines will eliminate 6 percent of U.S. jobs, starting with customer service reps and ending with truck and taxi drivers. And that is expected to grow much higher in the coming years. An earlier study by Oxford researchers estimated 47 percent of U.S. jobs were at high risk of “computerization” over the next two decades.

Whether it’s in the next few years, or the next few decades, it’s clear many Americans will be affected—and yet we’re living with our heads in the sand. A Pew study from March found that 80 percent of U.S. adults believe their jobs will exist in the current form in 50 years; and, according to a 2015 survey, 63 percent don’t believe their jobs could ever be entirely performed by a machine.

The disconnect is stunning.

While intelligent people can disagree about the extent of disruption and havoc that artificial intelligence will wreak on workers, anyone who’s used self-checkout at a grocery store or interacted with a bank only through an ATM should realize that change is coming—and those who fail to prepare may be in big trouble.

Is Your Job at Risk?

Signs of this are everywhere, and not just at the supermarket. Walmart recently announced it was eliminating 7,000 back-office accounting jobs, largely by automating the workers’ tasks. Earlier this year, Foxconn, the firm that makes Apple and Samsung phones, said it was replacing 60,000 factory workers with robots.

Some of this change is obvious: It’s not difficult to imagine machines manning an assembly line or flipping burgers. But repetitive tasks aren’t limited to factories and kitchens. Many workers today—even highly-paid ones, like lawyers—find themselves doing similar tasks over and over. If that’s you, there’s a target on your back with an automated laser pointed at it.

Change happens fast these days, which makes it unlikely that we’ll be able to retrain America’s workforce fast enough to take on robot-proof jobs.

September 27, 2016

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