Tuesday, January 21, 2014

The Rich and Their Robots Are About to Make Half the World's Jobs Disappear


A tech titan surveys his robotic workforce. Image: Wikimedia.

Two hugely important statistics concerning the future of employment as we know it made waves recently:

1. 85 people alone command as much wealth as the poorest half of the world

2. 47 percent of the world's currently existing jobs are likely to be automated over the next two decades. 

Combined, those two stats portend a quickly-exacerbating dystopia. As more and more automated machinery (robots, if you like) are brought in to generate efficiency gains for companies, more and more jobs will be displaced, and more and more income will accumulate higher up the corporate ladder. The inequality gulf will widen as jobs grow permanently scarce—there are only so many service sector jobs to replace manufacturing ones as it is—and the latest wave of automation will hijack not just factory workers but accountants, telemarketers, and real estate agents. 

That's according to a 2013 Oxford study, which was highlighted in this week's Economist cover story. That study attempted to tally up the number of jobs that were susceptible to automization, and, surprise, a huge number were. Creative and skilled jobs done by humans were the most secure—think pastors, editors, and dentists—but just about any rote task at all is now up for automation. Machinists, typists, even retail jobs, are predicted to disappear. 

And, as is historically the case, the capitalists eat the benefits. The Economist explains:

For the rest of the story: http://motherboard.vice.com/blog/the-rich-and-their-robots-are-about-to-make-half-the-worlds-jobs-disappear

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