Calm Down, Drones Won't Steal All Of Our Jobs

Just some of them.
A drone probably won't take your job.
A drone probably won't take your job.
Handout via Reuters

Chances are, a drone isn't coming to take your job.

A new report from consulting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers estimates that drones could replace $127 billion worth of labor and services over the next several decades. It's easy to see that number and conclude that drones are going to come and kick you to the curb.

But the truth is a little more complicated.

For one, drones don't save companies money just by reducing their labor costs. Drones also make business services, like delivering packages, more efficient, according to the PwC report. That means drones can cut down on costs without necessarily ousting tons of workers.

And while some industries stand to lose lots of jobs to automation, others probably won't be as severely affected. Much of the agricultural sector is already mechanized, for instance, and drones used to inventory crops might just replace satellites currently used for the same purpose.

"As with any emerging technology, some types of jobs currently done by people will be less required in the future, especially those that are highly repetitive or dangerous," Michal Mazur, one of the study's authors, told The Huffington Post. "But at the same time, we see a need for a growing number of new professions," including drone designers and data analysts, he said.

Drones can give farmers an overview of crops, so they can determine problem areas without having to walk through the field.
Drones can give farmers an overview of crops, so they can determine problem areas without having to walk through the field.
Mike De Sisti/Milwaukee Journal Sentinel via Getty Images

That doesn't mean drones won't replace any jobs, however. Some tasks -- like collecting data about infrastructure or quickly delivering medical supplies -- can be done more efficiently using drones, the report notes. Drones can also make it easier to capture aerial footage for films, survey land and plan mining projects.

Overall, there's little question that automation is going to dramatically change the way people work over the next few decades.

Nearly half of the activities people get paid to do could be automated right now using existing technology, according to a report from consulting firm McKinsey. It's not just low-wage jobs that could vanish. While jobs that pay less than $20 an hour are most at risk of disappearing, even highly paid jobs involve activities that could be automated, the report found.

But the McKinsey report stresses that automating certain tasks isn’t the same as replacing entire occupations.

“Very few occupations will be automated in their entirety in the near or medium term,” the report states. “Rather, certain activities are more likely to be automated.”

And even when robots take old jobs, they often create new ones, according to J.P Gownder, an analyst at the tech research firm Forrester. For instance, robots require people to repair and maintain them, jobs that often take significant skill and training.

“While these technologies are both real and important, and some jobs will disappear because of them, the future of jobs overall isn’t nearly as gloomy as many prognosticators believe,” Gownder wrote in a 2015 report. “In reality, automation will spur the growth of many new jobs—including some entirely new job categories.”

Automation is definitely going to shake things up. But there's little use worrying until we know exactly how.

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