I've been warning for years that many jobs are going to be replaced by automated solutions, and that most of the jobs currently available are candidates for automation. I know many of my readers have said that they're 'insulated' from that by requirements for technical knowledge, or specialization, or other factors; but things have now moved so far, so fast, that I believe we're 'over the edge'. I now expect the number of jobs - and the number of people employed - to diminish on a regular basis as a percentage or proportion of our population. The situation is going to be worse for those countries still heavily oriented towards manufacturing, such as China. They're likely to lose jobs even faster.
I'm preparing a long article (which may become a series of articles) about what this implies for us as a nation and as a society. It has potentially very serious consequences across a great many areas, from politics, to immigration, to social services, to the structure - even the type - of our communities. Today, I'd like to give you some food for thought from two sources.
First, here's a 2014 video titled 'Humans Need Not Apply'.
Sobering, isn't it? Bear in mind that it's more than two years old - and in the intervening period, every single thing it forecasts has become even more true. For example, just yesterday I linked to IBM's Chef Watson artificial intelligence application, taking input about the ingredient(s) you have on hand and listing recipes or meals you might prepare with them. That whole process is automated. There are no human hands or brains involved.
The second source to spur your thinking is an article in the Wall Street Journal titled 'The End Of Employees'. Here's an excerpt.
Never before have American companies tried so hard to employ so few people. The outsourcing wave that moved apparel-making jobs to China and call-center operations to India is now just as likely to happen inside companies across the U.S. and in almost every industry.
. . .
The shift is radically altering what it means to be a company and a worker. More flexibility for companies to shrink the size of their employee base, pay and benefits means less job security for workers. Rising from the mailroom to a corner office is harder now that outsourced jobs are no longer part of the workforce from which star performers are promoted.
For companies, the biggest allure of replacing employees with contract workers is more control over costs. Contractors help businesses keep their full-time, in-house staffing lean and flexible enough to adapt to new ideas or changes in demand.
For workers, the changes often lead to lower pay and make it surprisingly hard to answer the simple question “Where do you work?” Some economists say the parallel workforce created by the rise of contracting is helping to fuel income inequality between people who do the same jobs.
No one knows how many Americans work as contractors, because they don’t fit neatly into the job categories tracked by government agencies. Rough estimates by economists range from 3% to 14% of the nation’s workforce, or as many as 20 million people.
. . .
Eventually, some large companies could be pruned of all but the most essential employees. Consulting firm Accenture PLC predicted last year that one of the 2,000 largest companies in the world will have “no full-time employees outside of the C-suite” within 10 years.
. . .
Steven Berkenfeld, an investment banker who has spent his career evaluating corporate strategies, says companies of all shapes and sizes are increasingly thinking like this: “Can I automate it? If not, can I outsource it? If not, can I give it to an independent contractor or freelancer?”
Hiring an employee is a last resort, Mr. Berkenfeld adds, and “very few jobs make it through that obstacle course.”
There's more at the link. I urge you to click over there and read the article in full. It provides many examples across the spectrum of corporate activity, showing how 'normal' jobs have been outsourced, replaced, or done away with entirely.
As I said earlier, I'm working on an in-depth look at this problem, and what it's likely to mean for many of us. The two sources above provide foundation material that's very important. It's worth your while to go through them in full, and think about their implications for yourself.