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Life after Jobs

Rapid automation is taking place in restaurants, airports, supermarkets and warehouses.

45,000 robots installed by Amazon.

Motor manufacturing becoming almost totally automated.

An insurance company that laid off 90% of its employees and replaced them with an artificial intelligence system that can calculate payouts to policyholders, which produced an increase productivity of 30% and they will see a return on its investment in less than two years . 

A Chinese factory just replaced 90% of its human workforce with automated machines, it experienced a 250% increase in productivity and an 80% drop in defects.  It is hard to argue against automation when statistics are clearly illustrating its potential.

The  factory used to need 650 human workers to produce mobile phones. Now, the factory is run by 60 robot arms that work around the clock across 10 production lines. The number of people employed drops to just 20, and given the level of efficiency achieved by automation, it won’t be long before other factories follow in their footsteps.  Three people  are assigned to check and monitor the production line, and the others are tasked with monitoring computer control systems. Any remaining work not handled by humans is left in the capable hands of machines.

 This is just the tip of the iceberg and the replacement of people by AI continues that acceleration.

This efficiency of automation comes at a price, though: our jobs. 

Last year, McKinsey showed that currently demonstrated technologies could automate 45 percent of the activities people are paid to perform and that about 60 percent of all occupations could see a minimum of 30 percent or more of their constituent activities automated, again with technologies available today.  Within 5 to 10 years we could see unemployment up to 60% of the available workforce.

According to a joint study conducted by Oxford University and the Oxford Martin School, “47 percent of jobs in the US are ‘at risk’ of being automated.”  And these won’t just be factory jobs, either. At the rate that robotics and artificial intelligence (AI) are advancing, machines will soon be able to take over tasks in a variety of industries and do them just as well as, if not better than, humans. We already have robot lawyers capable of defending a range of violations, an AI that can deliver a medical diagnosis more accurately than a human doctor, robot journalists, and even therapists that can outperform their human counterparts.

The uncertainty surrounding the future of human employment in the age of automation is already apparent, and machines are poised to keep getting better and better at what they do. 

So what’s the solution? How will we make ourselves useful? 

Governments and private organizations are putting some serious thought into this subject and are come up with some potential solutions to address widespread employee displacement.

Among those is universal basic income (UBI), a system in which all citizens of a country receive an unconditional amount of money on top of income they generate through other means. Pilot studies in countries like the United States, India, Canada, and Finland have already begun, and thus far, they’ve delivered promising results. It’s too early to say if UBI could address widespread job loss due to automation head on, but it could ultimately prove to be an empowering economic move as we make the transition.

The times they are a changing . . . and extremely rapidly.

Posted on February 13, 2017

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