In this book the author, Andres Oppenheimer, reminds us that researchers have made predictions that by 2033 that 75 percent of current jobs could be eliminated from the US economy. With Robotic and Artificial Intelligence (AI) advancements progressing at a rapid rate and applied towards automation, jobs that don’t necessarily require human skills or manual labor are going to be a thing of the past.

What does this mean? Oppenheimer’s premise is jobs like “sports refereeing, telemarketing, bank loan supervising, insurance underwriting, retail sales and even catering have a 95 percent or greater chance of obsolescence”. The list is expansive and is applicable for almost every industry.

As you can imagine, just about every industry and job will be significantly impacted. Of course new positions, roles, and responsibilities will be created, but there will be major economic and community impacts to societies across the world.

In his book, Oppenheimer addresses these questions…”

• the jobs most likely to get eliminated;

• the jobs most likely to survive; and

• the jobs most likely to be radically transformed.”

Back in 1985 I was interviewed by McDonnell Douglas as an engineer. I was working at General Electric at the time as a Mechanical Engineer with some software development responsibilities. One of the individuals I interviewed with discussed the impact he felt AI would have on the McDonnell Douglas and the world at large. So 35 years later, we’re now on the threshold of the real impact AI and Robots will have on People, Process, and Technology. I think Andres Oppenhiemer hits the nail on the head as to the things we as a country and world will have to deal with regarding the societal impacts of significant swings in unemployment. Maybe the demand for physiologist and social workers will increase due to significant people being displaced initially through AI Automation.

It’s ironic, while in the US, the past year the amount of noise in the press and political posturing for the American people to get behind a $15 an hour minimum wage. All the while, the technology industrial revolution marches forward at a mind boggling pace to displace those same workers. I think automation will get there before the US economy passes a nation wide $15 an hour minimum wage.

Oppenhiemer highlights the prediction that by 2025, one-third of all American trucks could be automated. He mentions that there are 3.5 million truck drivers in the US that could be displaced in a relatively short period of time.

The same thing is true of the taxi drivers. He mentions that significant testing of autonomous vehicle self-driving taxis have been going on since 2016. There are 180,000 taxi drivers, 160,000 Uber drivers, 500,000 school bus drivers, and 160,000 transit bus drivers. That’s another 1 million jobs lost or impacted and that doesn’t even count the number of pizza delivery drivers.

Oppenhiemer identifies the impact to the retail and restaurant worker which is expected to eliminate those positions as well. He mentions the impact on brick-and-mortar stores which are disappearing at a rapid rate. In May 2017 Radio Shack filed for bankruptcy  closing nearly all of their company-owned stores to shift its business primarily to an online presence. The same things are happening to JCPenney, Macy’s and you can see that happening in your home towns throughout the year. Oppenhiemer thinks that over 12 million jobs will be impacted in the retail space in the US.

The convergence of autonomous vehicles, robotics for retail and manufacturing, drone technology for package deliver for example are all converging at the same time which creates this mega-revolution of change. The challenge we will have to make is how fast we will allow it to happen. I believe that we need to have a controlled growth plan that takes into consideration the timing of these global and economical impacts. With all these improvements and advancements we as a people will have to consider the economic impact to society at large and what we are going all happen. Left unchecked, it will devastate large industry workforces. We saw a significant impact to workers in the US when India came on-line for IT Outsourcing in the 90’s with it’s highly educated technology low cost workforce. This new age of automation will make that transition to a global workforce seem insignificant. So what can we learn from that experience? And what should we start doing now to avoid making the same mistakes?

Oppenhiemer predicts that as many as 3.6 million jobs in the US fast-food industry could be eliminated in 2020. And the noise about the $15 an hour wage for these workers only increases the speed at which business have to transition to automation.

So with all this low-level displacement of repetitive type positions displacing workers what will we all do? Well not all is lost according to Oppenhiemer. He believes that many future jobs will require someone to provide support to automated systems. Someone will have to interpret the results of those data collection activities say for legal research done by a paralegal or health related research by health technicians. So we’ll have to be retrained to become knowledge workers and how to interpret results to get to the best and right answer for our customers and clients. Oppenhiemer predicts that as much as 80 of the work done by doctors today could be performed by automation. It just means that the routine tasks will be automated and will free the knowledge worker up to do more important and interesting work.

Final thoughts

Over the next 10-15 years we’ll see a rapid displacement of manual labor related work activities in the workplace. Those positions will be replace with more higher level required skills requiring more training and continual lifelong learning activities. Displacement of workers in manufacturing, transportation, banking, law and the service sector will be impacted the most. But it will create new jobs that require knowledge worker skills focused on supporting robotics and automation technologies that replaced them. Oppenhiemer believes that automation will eliminate positions and job duties in medicine, journalism, and education. But he believes that it will free up individuals in those fields to do more interesting work. He believes all of this automation will increase our free time to explore higher learning as well as the arts and entertainment world.