Study: Robots Could Replace One-Third of Workforce

The robots really are coming for your job.  That's the conclusion of a new book that looks at the true impact of the rise of automation, artificial intelligence and robotics on the U.S. workforce.  "The Future of Work: Robots, AI and Automation" looks at the rapidly evolving state of technology in the business and retail sectors, and paints a stark warning for low-skilled workers.  "There is going to be a lot of automation developing over the next couple of decades, so there are estimates that as many as one-third of adult men will not be working by the year 2050," says the book's author Darrell West, who is a researcher at the Brookings Institution.

Warnings about the onset of automation are nothing new, but West tells KTRH the threat of new technology goes beyond simple retail, service or assembly line-type jobs.  "There are now AI solutions that can read x-rays and cat scans, so even radiologist, which is a very high trained occupation, is going to be affected by automation," he says.  "So it's going to start affecting professional workers."

There is good news for those with specialty or trade skills.  "People who do routine tasks that are easily automatable are going to be most at risk, but other jobs are going to be in hot demand," says West.  "We're still going to need plumbers, we're still going to need electricians, and those types of jobs will not be easy to automate."

Ultimately, West believes educators and businesses need to act now to better prepare the workforce for this new world of technology.  "This is not a futuristic vision where 20 years from now it's going to be happening," he says.  "I mean, literally, businesses are adopting AI solutions right now."

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