Are you at risk of automation?

on robots, Automation, jobs


Referees are about to be shown the red card - by robots.

The job of officiating sporting fixtures faces a 98 per cent chance of being taken over by machines, according to a study by Oxford University. That's the same risk faced by accountants, bookkeepers and legal secretaries.

And if you're in tele-sales you might want to think about looking for a different job. The report puts telemarketers at the top of the automation hit list, with a 99 per cent chance of being computerised.

Architects, sales directors and pharmacists are safe, as are - thankfully - dentists and midwives. Therapists have some of the safest jobs, along with teachers.

You can read the full study here, or look up the automation risk for your job here on a searchable tool.

Of course, automation isn't new. The robot production line has long been a feature of the modern factory floor. Now self-driving trucks threaten the jobs of people paid to deliver what comes out of the factories.

There are few avenues of work that won't feel the march of technology changing what they do, how they do it, and if they do it.

Forrester predicts that seven per cent of US jobs will be automated by 2025.

Boston Consulting Group puts the figure at 25 per cent. The trend veers upwards considerably according to an Oxford University study in 2014 which predicted that 47 per cent of jobs in the US were at high risk of being automated over the next two decades.

The academics also came up with a handy list of jobs, ranked against probability of becoming automated. It's fun or terrifying depending on what you do for a living.

Ongoing research by McKinsey says predictable, repetitive activities such as manufacturing or food processing face a 78 per cent chance of automation, even citing a robot capable of cooking 360 burgers an hour. It also reckons 53 per cent of retail activities could be automated.

At Cafe X in San Francisco and Hong Kong, a robot barista will make your coffee within seconds of receiving your order via smartphone app.

But now machines are climbing the career ladder, eyeing office jobs and knowledge work. The focus of how automation will impact the workplace has certainly shifted more recently from blue collar to white collar.

Artificial intelligence and cognitive computing are changing the way we work, capable of performing tasks previously thought to be the preserve of humans.

Unsurprisingly, McKinsey found industries that involve crunching data, such as financial services and insurance, are particularly ripe for automation. Data analysis takes up 50 per cent of working time in these sectors, even among highly skilled and well-paid workers.

Here, automation is offering a way to make those people more productive in their core areas of expertise by letting machines take care of the data processing.

This is significant because the distinction here is that rather than technology threatening livelihoods, it actually helps people concentrate efforts on the more valuable 'human' aspect of their work.

So, before we get carried away with the idea that robots are coming for lawyers, accountants, doctors and other professionals, let's not ignore the fact that technology is already busily disrupting these sectors already.

The legal profession is being challenged by the likes of Rocket Lawyer and LegalZoom - which describe themselves as 'online legal technology companies' and Avvo, an 'online legal services marketplace'.

Xero, Quickbooks and Kashflow offer cloud-based accountancy services. HealthTap provides 'help from doctors 24/7' without being in the same room as one.

Xero cloud accounting makes crunching numbers easy - without an accountantAnd yet you don't tend to meet many unemployed lawyers, doctors or accountants.

Online services like these are flourishing across many different industries, representing new, innovative business models. While they might lead to fewer people working in some areas they could also create totally new jobs in others.

Yes, some jobs - possibly in large numbers - will cease to exist and that presents problems for politicians and business leaders. The McKinsey study found that 45 per cent of activities people are paid to perform could be automated.

But that's not the same as saying 45 per cent of jobs will be wiped out by automation.

As the study says: "Understanding the activities that are most susceptible to automation from a technical perspective could provide a unique opportunity to rethink how workers engage with their jobs and how digital labor platforms can better connect individuals, teams, and projects."

In most cases it won't be human versus robot but rather a shift in the way certain tasks are carried out. While some jobs might disappear altogether, most will merely change. For many, technology will simply help them do their jobs better, automating the routine, repetitive or mundane aspects.

That's what Blink is about - making automation work for you. We make it easy to bring intelligent bots and micro-apps into everyday workflows so you can get more done and your organisation can become more productive. It's a question of embracing technology that enables us to work smarter.

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