According to a new report from McKinsey Global Institute, 51% of all job activities could be automated with current technology.
(Many job activities can be automated)
Right now, 51% of job activities could be automated with “currently demonstrated” technology, the McKinsey report says. The distinction is noteworthy: McKinsey isn’t saying half of all jobs can be automated with existing technology, but rather job tasks. Many jobs involve a blend of both the mundane and the intricate. Machines are excellent at handling rote, predictable tasks like repetitive physical labor and data collection and processing, making jobs like retail, foodservice, and manufacturing—a big theme in the 2016 campaign—most affected. As 51% of all working hours, these endangered activities make up $2.7 trillion in wages.
Because automation is spread out—less than 5% of jobs are entirely rote and machine replaceable—the changes will likely trickle in across the board. “About 60% of all occupations have at least 30% of constituent activities that could be automated,” the report says. “More occupations will change than will be automated away.” As for the timeline on this, McKinsey says its scenarios suggest 2055, but that it could happen 20 years sooner or later depending on economic conditions.
SF fans read about this sixty years ago in The Moon is a Harsh Mistress (1966) by Science Fiction Grandmaster Robert Heinlein. In the novel, a rather substantial computer system woke up and spoke to a maintenance guy:
"And Mike took on endless new jobs. In May 2075, besides controlling robot traffic and catapult and giving ballistic advice and/or control for manned ships, Mike controlled phone system for all Luna, same for Luna-Terra voice and viddeo, handled air, water, temperature, humidity and sewage for Luna City. Novy Leningrad, and several smaller warrens, did accounting and payrolls for Lunar Authority, and by lease, same for many firms and banks. Some logics get nervous breakdowns. Overloaded phone system behaves like frightened child. Mike did not have upsets, acquired sense of humor instead..."
Here's an idea proposed by (among others) author John Twelve Hawks in his excellent new novel Spark:
The Freedom to Work Act was one of several bills passed in Congress after the Day of Rage. The new law said that companies were free to fire any employee, but a worker replaced by a nubot that "appears or pretends to be human" had to be compensated.
(Read more about Replaced Worker Benefits)