Almost half of all jobs could be automated by computers within two decades and “no government is prepared” for the tsunami of social change that will follow, according to the Economist. The magazine’s 2014 analysis of the impact of technology paints a pretty bleak picture of the future.
It says that while innovation (aka “the elixir of progress”) has always resulted in job losses, usually economies have eventually been able to develop new roles for those workers to compensate, such as in the industrial revolution of the 19th century, or the food production revolution of the 20th century.
But the pace of change this time around appears to be unprecedented, its leader column claims. And the result is a huge amount of uncertainty for both developed and under-developed economies about where the next ‘lost generation’ is going to find work.
It quotes a 2013 Oxford Martin School study that estimates 47% of all jobs could be automated in the next 20 years:
“Our ﬁndings thus imply that as technology races ahead, low-skill workers will reallocate to tasks that are non-susceptible to computerisation – i.e., tasks requiring creative and social intelligence. For workers to win the race, however, they will have to acquire creative and social skills,” that study says.
The Economist also points out that current unemployment levels are startlingly high, but that “this wave of technological disruption to the job market has only just started”.