In 2015 a Chinese firm called Changying Precision Technology Company reported a rapid expansion of its production capacity. According to People’s Daily, instead of the usual 8,000 items per worker, the output surged to 21,000 items – all thanks to the use of robots and artificial intelligence. The firm replaced 90% of its staff with 60 robotic arms, which assemble mobile phones 24 hours a day.
According to recent data gathered by the McKinsey Global Institute, modern technology could automate 45 percent of the activities people are paid to perform and about 60 percent of all occupations could see 30 percent or more of their activities automated.
Even though most jobs that are being assigned to robots deal with assembly and performing mechanical tasks, jobs that require human intelligence are also becoming affected.
Here’s McKinsey Global Institute partner Michael Chui talking about AI’s new professions:
We now have machines that are looking at, for instance, more radiology scans than a radiologist will see in their entire lives. And we are seeing artificial intelligence applied where it affects us as consumers, whether it’s a mobile phone that tells us “we need to leave earlier because traffic is getting bad” or in a business context where we’re seeing some of these algorithms being used for customer service, being used to optimize marketing, or being used to optimize supply chains.
The list of “endangered professions” that may soon be given to robots is growing rapidly. In 2013 Carl Benedikt Frey and Michael Osborne from the University of Oxford studied a list of 702 occupations to estimate the probability of their computerization. Their report suggests that there is a 90% chance of machines becoming masons, budget analysts, butchers, tailors, loan officers and real estate brokers. The list is very long, so it’s just the tip of the iceberg.
Researchers say that it’s time for people to think very carefully about the future of the labor market. Here’s what Michael Chui from the McKinsey Global Institute said about the issue:
As a society, we’ll have to think about things like inequality, we’ll have to think about things like how do we retrain and how do we create time and the ability for people to adapt as these technologies accelerate in their development.
Even though some people see the robotic revolution exclusively as a threat, others prefer a more neutral approach. Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk, for instance, says that due to automation humans will eventually be able to collect some sort of universal basic income. And even though their jobs will be given to robots, people will have more time to do complex and interesting things that can never be done by machines.
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