According to this video from The Economist, only 0.7% of the worlds’ industrial workforce are robots. And that 0.7% is dominated by two industries: automotive and industrial manufacturing. The figure is probably less than many people think.
But, it is going to grow. And it’s not just the “robots” that we need be thinking about – automation through AI (basically, machines learning how to do new jobs by being given lots of examples to learn from) is likely to result in as big a change, if not bigger, to how we work.
If you want a few sleepless nights, the BBC has a 2-part series on The Secrets of Silicon Valley. The most memorable bits of Part 1 are largely about how rapid technological change could / will disrupt society. If you can’t access the video, the presenter wrote a piece for Mashable that’s worth a few minutes of your time.
Antonio is worried about where modern technology – especially the twin forces of automation and artificial intelligence – is taking us. He thinks it’s developing much faster than people outside Silicon Valley realize, and we’re on the cusp of another industrial revolution that will rip through the economy and destroy millions of jobs.
“Every time I meet someone from outside Silicon Valley – a normy – I can think of 10 companies that are working madly to put that person out of a job.”
Antonio estimates that within 30 years, half of us will be jobless. “Things could get ugly,” he told me. “It’s very scary, I think we could have some very dark days ahead of us.”
Whether you consider this alarmist or not, we’d be crazy to think that the “twin forces” of automation and AI won’t have a huge effect on how we live and work.
Just a few years ago, driverless cars seemed futuristic. Now they are routinely being tested on our streets. We’ll be buying them before 2020. The Obama administration forecast 3 million driving jobs would be lost to automation; that could easily be an underestimate as 17% of the US workforce drive for a living. That’s over 20M people. And industries like medicine, law and finance are not immune; AI is making in-roads here too.
We’ve long made the point that educators are preparing young people for jobs that don’t exist yet. This has never been more true. But the pace of technological change is accelerating and we need to start asking some tough questions about whether our education systems are up to the task.
In other words, are we preparing young people for jobs that won’t exist anymore?