Much has been said lately about the potential impact of artificial intelligence (AI) on the workforce. Stephen Hawking, Elon Musk and Bill Gates have all weighed in, and recent research suggests some extremely significant disruptions. Some experts are suggesting outcomes more apocalyptic than Brian Williams accidently wandering into a VFW bar.
The scope of these changes is difficult to predict and process. But the pace at which the developments are being insinuated into the economic landscape is breathtaking. How long did it take for American farmers to move into factory jobs? At one point 2 percent of farmers were employed in factories. Within 200 years it had flipped, only 2 percent of the farmers were still working the soil. 98 percent of them were interfacing with some sort of machine in a factory environment. We call this the Industrial Revolution, and social historians see it as one of the world’s most significant societal developments. In today’s lexicon, it was “highly disruptive”. The next generation of machines, robotic workers capable to an extreme that seems wildly futuristic, will not need a human companion. And, if the experts are right, you may see them at your virtual water cooler in large numbers within the next 10 years. Head spinning!
The best example of this robotic tsunami might be self-driving cars. This is not a rapidly developing technology, it’s available now. It’s no exaggeration to say truck drivers and taxi drivers may soon be obsolete. That’s more than 3.5 million American jobs.
What does this mean to your job? It depends upon the type of work you do. But very large numbers of workers are at risk. A study by Carl Frey and Michael Osborne from Oxford University suggests more than 40 percent of the workforce could be replaced by machines. The study is called “The Future of Employment: How Susceptible are Jobs to Computerization?” Hint: If you’re a telemarketer or a library technician you should probably sign up for some job training. Least likely jobs to be replaced? Therapists, surgeons, and salespeople.
No problem you say. Although the speed of this change is amazing, the economy has always replaced jobs made unnecessary by technology. Buggy whips out, automobile mechanics in. Maybe…but not guaranteed. The loss of buggy whips did not subject the economy to much trauma, but I don’t see a lot of horses out there with economically viable jobs. At best the depth and breadth of this change portends economic bad news for very large numbers of middle and lower income workers.
What does this mean to those of us responsible for developing and executing a staffing and recruiting strategy in support of our organization’s talent requirements? Well…it’s kinda hard to recruit when we don’t know what talents are needed. Maybe someone in your organization should be asking about how advancing AI technology can best serve your larger goals, and what that means to talent acquisition. It’s going to happen, whether you’re in Salt Lake City or Poughkeepsie. Better get it figured out right away, before some robot comes along with the answer!
CGP Grey does a nice job of illuminating these developments with a short video. See it here. I have the list of all 702 Standard Occupational Classification Codes and their individual probability of survival as proposed by the Frey and Osborne study. If you’d like some detail from this list send me an email. Your comments are always appreciated!