New study shows nearly half of US jobs at risk of being replaced by computers

New study shows nearly half of US jobs at risk of being replaced by computers

Ever since the very first science fiction authors started writing about robots, we've always been saddled with a sense of paranoia and anxiety about machines taking over. Seriously, it's like we can't imagine artificial intelligence as anything other than a menacing force of domination. Just think about how many works of fiction end with robots either enslaving or destroying us? Terminator, for example, has the sentient AI Skynet cause a global apocalypse by kickstarting a horrific nuclear war, before building killer androids to finish the job.

But the fact of the matter is, maybe the robot armageddon is going to play out differently to what we expect. Maybe we shouldn't be concerned about robots committing genocide; instead, we should care more about the possibility of them stealing our jobs. Over the years, many computing experts have warned up repeatedly about the dangers of automation rendering human industry obsolete. However, now a new study courtesy of Oxford University has determined that far more jobs are on the line than previously thought. Think your career is safe? Think again.

An image of robots working at a blackboard. Credit: Getty

The study comes courtesy of Oxford's Department of Engineering Science. Authored by Dr Michael Osborne and Dr Carl Benedikt Frey, the study (entitled "The Future of Employment: How Susceptible Are Jobs to Computerisation?" claims that a whopping 47 per cent of jobs in the United States will be threatened by artificial intelligence in the near future. Examining over 700 detailed occupation types, the researchers managed to classify what types of jobs contemporary workers perform. They determined what engineering obstacles are currently preventing computerisation and then assessed the degree to which these occupations may be automated in decades to come.

The study's abstract notes: "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 47 per cent 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."

A number of robots at a factory. Credit: Getty

It later concludes: "Our model predicts that most workers in transportation and logistics occupations, together with the bulk of office and administrative support workers, and labour in production occupations, are at risk ... Our findings thus imply that as technology races ahead, low-skill workers will reallocate to tasks that are non-susceptible to computerisation."

So there you have it; in a few years you could well be sharing your coffee break with a mechanoid, or handing your TPS report to a protocol droid. Want to stay in the rat race? Then go for something which rewards creativity and people skills. Good news for people with liberal arts majors then - bad news for anyone who wants to work in manual labour.