About A 50/50 Chance A Computer Threatens To Steal Your Job: Paper

About A 50/50 Chance A Computer Threatens To Steal Your Job

There’s a fairly good chance a computer could one day be doing your job instead of you, according to a recent paper out of Oxford College.

The working paper, put out in August and complete with the fun title, "The Future of Employment: How Susceptible are Jobs to Computerisation?", comes from the Oxford Martin Programme on the Impacts of Future Technology and is not available online.

But the MIT Technology Review obtained a copy and writes that the study found 45 percent of 702 jobs reviewed could potentially be computerized over the next 20 years.

The piece has more information about how the author’s expect this shift to occur, as well as what threatened workers should do to prepare. You should go read it.

Here’s the entire abstract out of Oxford (emphasis ours):

"We examine how susceptible jobs are to computerisation. To assess this, we begin by implementing a novel methodology to estimate the probability of computerisation for 702 detailed occupations, using a Gaussian process classifier. Based on these estimates, we examine expected impacts of future computerisation on US labour market outcomes, with the primary objective of analysing the number of jobs at risk and the relationship between an occupation’s probability of computerisation, wages and educational attainment. According to our estimates, about 45 percent of total US employment is at risk. We further provide evidence that wages and educational attainment exhibit a strong negative relationship with an occupation’s probability of computerisation."

So in summary: Nearly half of jobs face some threat of being computerized, and people in such jobs will struggle for money in the meantime, according to the paper.

That’s worrying news for U.S. workers, many of whom are already hurting for a pay hike. The bottom 70 percent of the income ladder have seen their inflation-adjusted wages fall significantly since 2007, according to the left-leaning Economic Policy Institute, and that trend shows little sign of slowing down.

Indeed, the worry over automation and its effect on the job market is an old one in capitalism. Kevin Drum of Mother Jones recently wrote a piece called, “Welcome Robot Overlords, Please Don’t Fire Us?” (another good read), in which he points to diverse examples of jobs that could be affected -- driver, journalists, even doctors.

Yet as Drum points out, Nobel Prize-winning economist (and New York Times columnist) Paul Krugman isn’t quite convinced robots are the real threat to workers. The distinction is reserved, he has said, for the eternal struggle over the money pot between capital and labor, a battle labor has been losing since the 1970s.

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