Another Flaccid Robopocalypse Prediction

robots-replace-humansMarketwatch claims that one-third of American working-age men could be displaced by robots. This would be a problem if it happened in a year, but if it takes a century, there’s probably no cause for alarm. Stupid click bait headlines.

One third of able-bodied American men between 25 and 54 could be out of job by 2050, contends the author of “The Future of Work: Robots, AI and Automation.”

So over the next 32 years. That should give us time to adapt.

“We’re already at 12% of prime-aged men without jobs,” said Darrell West, vice president of the Brookings Institution think tank, at a forum in Washington, D.C. on Monday. That number has grown steadily over the past 60 years, but it could triple in the next 30 years because of new technology such as artificial intelligence and automation.

As of December 2017, the US unemployment rate was only 4.1%. Even if all women were employed, that would mean only 8.2% of men were without jobs. How did West arrive at the 12% figure? Presumably at least a third of the men he’s talking about aren’t included in the unemployment figures.

It could be even worse for some parts of the population, West argued. The rate for unemployment of young male African Americans, for instance, is likely to reach 50% by 2050.

On what basis is this claim made?

A lot of things can be done to avert such a problem and rethinking education is one of them, West said. “Schools need to change their curriculum so that students have the skills needed in the 21st century economy.”

What? Government indoctrination isn’t good enough?

Molly Kinder, senior adviser at progressive think tank New America, said the current state of manufacturing tells a story that will be seen see across many occupations. Jobs that don’t require advanced education will be replaced by automation, displacing low-wage, low-skilled workers.

No shit.

Public policymakers need to make education, especially in technology, for low-skill workers a priority to combat the potential for soaring unemployment rates, she said.

Public policymakers can’t even figure out how to educate children. How will they manage to train low-skilled workers in technology?

Many are already hurt by the technology shift. Some 6% of all adults say they lost a job or had their pay or hours reduced because of automation, according to a Pew Research study published in October. And 65% of adults believe most stores will be fully automated in 20 years and require little human interaction.

Somehow, public opinion doesn’t seem very convincing.

West’s new book focused a lot of his attention on use of robotics in the service industry. In the book he quotes Andrew Puzder, former CEO of Hardee’s parent company CKE, as saying that digital devices are “always polite, they always upsell, they never take a vacation, they never show up late, there’s never a slip-and-fall, or an age, sex or race discrimination case.”

True, but they can’t delight either.

About 37% of millennials are at high risk of having their job replaced by artificial intelligence or automation, says a study published by Gallup in June. Among those, one-third are struggling with workplace anxiety, worry about being laid off or their jobs being outsourced.

Here’s the link to the study: 3 Trends That Will Disrupt Your Workplace Forever. It simply refers to the same old Oxford study, The Future of Employment: How Susceptible Are Jobs to Computerisation? that guesses at how susceptible different jobs are to automation. I’ve previously discussed it in my post More Automation Scaremongering. Gallup have then presumably correlated jobs that millennials are doing to the study’s guesses. News flash: younger people tend to start in jobs that are easier to automate.

According to Gallup, many companies successfully manage employees’ fears through future readiness audits. One manufacturing company teaches its employees statistics and coding skills as well as how to incorporate data and analytics into their everyday life. This helps to prepare employees for an artificial intelligence driven future, Gallup said.

Managing their fears? How about actually preparing them? Teaching statistics and coding is a good idea.

And that future may arrive much quicker than most members of the workforce think. According to that same Gallup poll, 59% of executives believe that data science and analytical skills will be essential communication skills within their companies in five years.

In what industries? The Gallup study references another Gallup study that I haven’t been able to find. To me, it seems highly unlikely that there will be huge numbers of positions in data and analytics to replace manufacturing and service jobs. That said, if you’ve got the brains for it, there are a lot of open jobs in big data right now. I recommend at a minimum getting a diploma in technology. If you can afford it and are able, a degree in computer science or mathematics is probably even better.

About jimbelton

I'm a software developer, and a writer of both fiction and non-fiction, and I blog about movies, books, and philosophy. My interest in religious philosophy and the search for the truth inspires much of my writing.
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