technology in the workforce

Robot arms move through an assembly demo for Elon Musk at the Tesla Motor plant.

What is the chance that your job will soon go to robots? According to NPR’s Planet Money, some aspects of jobs are easier to automate than others, and this means that there is a lot of variation whether or not you could end up sacked for the next generation of robot workers.

NPR’s data comes from recent research that Carl Benedikt Frey and Michael A. Osborne, members of the Department of Engineering Science at the University of Oxford, completed which ended up in their paper, “The Future of Employment: How Susceptible Are Jobs to Computerization?” Planet Money compiles an associated list of jobs and their corresponding percentage rates which, according to nine job traits the study analyzed, provide a rough look at how likely it is that those jobs will fall to computers and automation.

Here at Industry Buzz, I would classify myself as a writer of no particular type. I discuss topics that reach into a wide range of disciplines. This article, for instance, is about finance and employment. A few weeks ago, however, I spoke about the development biological technologies that could help improve the lives of honey bees. Furthermore, I may write in the style of a reporter for one article but reach to the style of a conversationalist for the next.

There is a lot of original thought, issue analysis, and creativity that goes into my work. This is probably why Planet Money ranks my job — in the “Writers and Authors” sub-category of “Arts, Design, Entertainment…” — as having only a 3.8 percent chance of going the way of the machine. The website says I rank high in the need to come up with clever solutions to problems and moderately-high in the need for negotiation. Those rankings give me a lot of power over robots because, when it comes to interpersonal skills, the computer brain just isn’t that good. Yet.

On the other hand, telemarketers are at an extremely high risk of being taken over. They arrive at a 99 percent chance of being automated because their traits fit well with the skills at which computers already excel. There is no strong need for such workers to come up with novel solutions to problems, no developed personal stake in helping others, and little need for negotiation.

I found it good fun to sift through the jobs and the predictions of whether or not I will soon see such individuals replaced with robots. Management of all types and healthcare practitioners seem relatively safe; I won’t be getting my next cavity filled by a machine. In a few years, though, I could see a robot doing the entirety of my taxes or handling the future of my school loans. In both those areas, I have found help from humans an essential part of the process, so I’m not sure how good I feel about a robot taking over.

Still, the researchers say the estimates here are rough and only provide one look at the possible future of humanity and the workforce. I’ll keep my fingers crossed that I won’t be speaking to a robot doctor during my yearly checkup. I’m not ready for that just yet.

Image courtesy of Steve Jurvetson via Flickr.