Last year I wrote an article titled 'The jobs aren't coming back'. In it I cited this quotation:
There is a structural change in the economy. Technological improvements mean our economy can produce more value while employing fewer workers. Economists refer to this as the de-coupling of labor and growth. Technological automation and globalization has created an economy that can grow while employing fewer people. This technology and outsourcing has also developed an economy that disproportionally rewards entrepreneurs, investors and corporations. Hence the whole “We are the 99%” hubbub a year or two ago.
And with the accelerating rate of technological advancement, the problem is only going to get worse, not better. Democrats and Republicans will continue to blame the sluggish economy and shitty job numbers on each other. But know this: that if it’s anybody’s fault, it’s Silicon Valley’s. And the same technology that has enriched our lives and allows me to write this and you to read it, is ultimately the culprit.
S**t’s changing, folks. And it’s probably going to get worse before it gets better.
There's more at the link.
I've been keeping a careful eye on the subject since then. In March this year I posted another article titled 'The 10 most popular applications for robots'. It contained a video report on the subject, to which I commented:
Every single job shown above ... [was] not so long ago performed by human beings. All of those jobs no longer exist . . . for people.
They won't be coming back.
What does that say about the future of ever more jobs of a similar nature?
Again, more at the link.
A spate of articles addressing the topic has caught my attention in recent weeks. Here are a few of them.
- Boeing testing robots to improve 777 productivity: "Starting more than a year ago, Boeing began secretly testing a robotic alternative to manual riveting and bucking ... Laboratory testing had shown Boeing that it was possible for robots to sense the appropriate level of pressure to apply, simulating what a human does by feel ... The robotic system – which Boeing calls the fuselage assembly upright build (FAUB) – remains in evaluation, but could be moved into the 777 production system early next year. Fatigue tests on structural coupons so far indicate that the FAUB is superior to manual labor." That's going to make the IAM happy - I don't think!
- Bankers beware: City ‘will soon be run by robots’: "Robots will be running the City [of London - i.e. its financial markets] within 10 years, rendering investment bankers, analysts and even quants redundant, it has been claimed. Artificial intelligence is about to outpace human ability, according to Dave Coplin, a senior Microsoft executive. Computers will not only be able to undertake complex mathematical equations but draw logical, nuanced conclusions, reducing the need for human interference, he said. This will render certain professions redundant, while other 'human only' skills will become increasingly valuable ... Algorithms are already commonplace on City trading floors, and are used in many industries, from online retail to internet dating. High-frequency trading, governed by algorithms, is already one of the most profitable trading classes. But, according to Mr Coplin, in 10 years people will no longer be required to manage these algorithms. Decisions will be taken directly by the artificial intelligence."
- ‘Robot overlords’: Coming our way soon?: "The research which aimed to look at how humans and robots can better work together comes amid calls by some industry experts for a collaborative work place, where humans and robots work side by side, to match the evolving capabilities of robots ... It's inevitable that as robots become more and more autonomous, questions about where robotic labor can best be utilized will be asked."
I noted last year that, according to the Financial Times:
47 per cent of jobs in the US are now at risk from computerisation, according to a prediction last year from Carl Benedikt Frey and Michael Osborne from Oxford university. McKinsey, the management consultancy, has estimated that by 2025, productivity gains in fields of “knowledge work”, ranging from clerical to professional services, could account for 40 per cent of all the current jobs in those areas.
It looks as if the pace of computerization and automation of traditionally 'human' jobs is accelerating even faster than previously foreseen. As I've said before, if you work in a field that's at risk of being 'automated' out from under you, you need to start planning right away for a change of job and/or a change of career. If you wait, it may be too late - and you'll be competing with everyone else who waited until the last minute. Far better to keep your eyes open, recognize the warning lights flashing, and do something about them now. Consider your options, look into setting up your own small business, take advantage of retraining opportunities, look for lateral transfers to other types of employment within your present company. If you don't do those things now, while you're still earning a living, you'll be forced to do them in haste when the wolf's already at the door. That's no fun at all. (Ask me how I know this.)