Economic Development News & Insight


Are the machines coming to take your job?

/ March 6, 2015

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Are the machines coming to take your job?

It has long been accepted that the rise of automated machines are taking jobs away from blue collar workers.  This is not a recent trend, and yet has largely been ignored by the white collar industry workers, who have been confident that a machine could never do what they do.  With all of the advancements made in artificial intelligence and automation, machines are now beginning to be able to perform white collar jobs where people never thought a machine would be successful.  Automated machines are now becoming not simply grunt workers, but have access to both cognitive and intellectual power, and are able to take on white collar responsibilities.

To be clear, we are not quite at Terminator levels of machines taking over the world, but the question needs to be asked; are machines displacing jobs, forcing people to relocate to different industries? Or are they simply taking jobs, leaving those who are not able to keep up jobless.  Some researchers are predicting what will occur is a shift in the way that humanity works, instead of being focused on logic or data entry positions, humanity will instead shift to a more creative workforce, with machines rising to accomplish the other positions.  Regardless of this position though, people will get lost in the shuffle as many are not inclined towards creativity.  So while some may thrive in a creative and machine operated world, others will struggle to find employment.  There is also the question of whether machines create as many jobs as they replace.  While there will be humans needed to operate and monitor machines, that number will be less than the number of humans who were originally needed to complete the job.  So will the machines be good for the bottom dollar of major companies? And if so, what expense will that be to those who lose their jobs?

Machines have already entered into white collar industry.  They have moved from their basic functions along the assembly line to highly intellectual processing jobs.  Some machines you may be aware of, others machines may amaze you in what they are able to accomplish.  The medical industry is full of fascinating machines, and while it is commonly thought that the human touch will always be needed, it seems that that may not be the case for every health care position.  Anesthesiologists are in direct competition with machines, as Johnson and Johnson’s machine Sedasys is capable of delivering low levels of anesthesia.   In surgery, robots are being developed that are capable of cutting out tumors on their own, and while doctors will still be needed to supervise, machines are continuously being invested in as a potentially game-changing medical development.

Data analysis is also being occupied by machines, where positions such as Legal Associates and E-Discovery Lawyers are being replaced.  Machines are capable of incredibly high levels of syntactic analysis and keyword recognition, meaning that they can analyze documents far faster the E-Discovery Lawyers.  In some cases machines are even able to summarize documents that they find into briefs, another responsibility typically given to entry level lawyers and paralegals.  Machines have even been invented that can predict legal outcomes, which machines being noted for having predicted 71 percent of all Supreme Court rulings.

Even reporters are being challenged by the development of machines, as the Associated Press has been experimenting with programs that are able to summarize and create reports for smaller audience events.  While this may seem like a good thing in terms of coverage, it also means that Junior Reporters are losing their opportunities to develop their journalistic talent.  With writing talent at a premium, machines are finding it easy to displace jobs that are taken by writers who may not be as effective as them.

It is an interesting crossroads that the job world has come to today.  At what point does the development of technology become worrying?  Researchers from the University of Oxford have predicted that by 2033 forty seven percent of all jobs in the United States would be taken by machines.  So are we at a point of the next great human revolution towards creativity? Or we standing on the precipice of being overtaken by a great robot army?

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