The robot job takeover may be arriving a bit sooner than you think. At least, that’s the takeaway from a (surprisingly positive) recent report by the World Economic Forum. In a paper published this week, the Swiss nonprofit — best known for its annual meeting in Davos — forecasts that half of all “work tasks” will be capable of being carried out by machines by 2025. Provided those figures are accurate, this will equate to the loss or displacement of a massive 75 million jobs. That’s the equivalent of every person in the United Kingdom, plus the state of New Jersey thrown in for good measure.
By comparison, around 71 percent of work tasks today are done by humans, with the remaining 29 percent being automated. Needless to say, it’s a big shift. It’s also a very rapid shift, especially compared with studies such as the frequently cited 2013 “Future of Employment” paper, which argued that 47 percent of U.S.-based jobs could be performed by machines over the next 20 years. While there’s a difference in the makeup of U.S. jobs versus total global jobs, the time frame difference between 20 years and less than a decade is stark — and reflects just how fast robotics and A.I. technologies are moving.
Don’t start panicking or planning your John Connor-style rise up against the job-pilfering Terminators just yet, though. While it may be human nature to gravitate toward the worst-case scenario, the World Economic Forum’s report is actually a positive one. It suggests that, even as robots take over a massive number of job, they will actually create nearlytwice as many. In total, the report suggests that 133 million human jobs will be created during that same period of time.
Although it is difficult to predict exactly what all of these will be (hey, who imagined that YouTube vlogger would be kids’ dream profession back in, say, 2002?), the report does give a few tips. Specifically, it suggests that jobs that involve programming or design, social intelligence, or critical thinking should be more resilient to the machine invasion.
As ever, the “creative destruction” process that forms a crucial part of capitalism continues. Only now, with way more robots thrown in for good measure!