EPCAR (AFA) 2015

JOBS AT HIGH RISK

It is an invisible force that goes by many names. Computerization. Automation. Artificial intelligence. Technology. Innovation. And, everyone's favorite, ROBOTS.
Whatever name you prefer, some form of it has been stimulating progress and 1killing jobs - from tailors to paralegals - for centuries. But this time is different: nearly half of American jobs today could be automated in "a decade or two". The question is: which half?
Another way of posing the same question is: 2Where do machines work better than people? 3Tractors are more powerful than farmers. Robotic arms are stronger and more tireless than assembly-line workers. But in the past 30 years, software and robots have succeeded replacing a particular kind of occupation: the average-wage, middle-skill, routine-heavy worker, especially in manufacturing and office administration.
Indeed, it's projected that the next 4wave of computer progress will continue to endanger human work where it already has: manufacturing, administrative support, retail, and transportation. Most remaining factory jobs are "likely to diminish over the next decades". Cashiers, counter clerks, and telemarketers are similarly endangered. On the other hand, health care workers, 5people responsible for our safety, and management positions are 6the least likely to be automated.

The next big thing

We might be on the edge of an innovating moment in robotics and artificial intelligence. Although the past 30 years have reduced the middle, high- and low-skill jobs have actually increased, as if protected from the invading armies of robots by their own moats. Higher-skill workers have been protected by a kind of social-intelligence moat. Computers are historically good at executing routines, but they're bad at finding patterns, communicating with people, and making decisions, which is what managers are paid to do. This is why some people think managers are, for the moment, one of the largest categories immune to the fast wave of AI.
Meanwhile, lower-skill workers have been protected by the Moravec moat. Hans Moravec was a futurist who pointed out that machine technology copied a savant infant: Machines could do long math equations instantly and beat anybody in chess, but they can't answer a simple question or walk up a flight of stairs. As a result, not skilled work done by people without much education (like home health care workers, or fast-food attendants) have been saved, too.

The human half

In the 19th century, new manufacturing technology replaced what was then skilled labor. In the second half of the 20th century, however, software technology took the place of median-salaried office work. The first wave showed that machines are better at assembling things. The second showed that machines are better at organizing things. Now data analytics and self-driving cars suggest they might be better at pattern-recognition and driving. So what are we better at?
7The safest industries and jobs are dominated by managers, health-care workers, and a super-category that includes education, media, and community service. One conclusion to draw from this is that humans are, and will always be, superior at working with, and 8caring for other humans. In this light, automation doesn't make the world worse. Far from it: it creates new 9opportunities for human creativity.
But robots are already creeping into diagnostics and surgeries. Schools are already experimenting with software that replaces teaching hours. The fact that some industries have been safe from automation 10for the last three decades doesn't guarantee that they'll be safe for the next one.
It would be anxious enough if we knew exactly which jobs are next in line for automation. 11The truth is scarier. 12We don't really have a clue.

(Adapted from http://www.businessinsider.com/robots-overtakingamerican-jobs-2014-1)

Glossary:
savant infant – a child with great knowledge and ability
to assemble – to make something by joining separate parts
to creep – to move slowly, quietly and carefully

In the sentence “for the last three decades” (reference 10), the underlined item was used in the same way as in

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