Is artificial intelligence going to replace our jobs? That’s the question a panel of experts discussed at the Salesforce Dreamforce conference. James Manyika, Director of the McKinsey Global Institute, says that about half of all job tasks and activities are going to be replaced by AI. Are we facing a jobless future?
When we think about AI, first it’s important to recognize that this is actually an extraordinary time and we’ve made so much progress in AI in the last five years or 10 years, much more than the last 50 years. Of course, these questions about work become very important to us. Rather than start with jobs, we should think about activities and tasks because what we all do is actually composed of tasks and activities. In fact, if we take any of our occupations they’re made up of a variety of tasks that we do every day and AI and other automation technologies are starting to be able to automate those tasks.
We’ve looked at something like over 2000 activities and tasks that make up what people do in the economy and you look at what’s now possible to automate based on AI and automation technologies, you very quickly come to the conclusion that it looks like it’s going to be possible to automate close to about half the tasks that people do. That’s a lot, but it’s important to recognize these are tasks, not jobs because any job also constituent activities.
If you then take this task view and then you try and map it back into occupations, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) tracks about 828 occupation categories. If you map these back to those occupations, you suddenly realize that about 10 percent of occupations look like they have nearly 100 percent of their tasks that can be automated. Approximately 60 percent of occupations have about a third of their constituent activities that can be automated. That means that many more occupations are going to be augmented by technology than will be automated away.
It’s natural to wonder, so are we facing a jobless future? We concluded with the research that we’ve done that yes, of course, there will be jobs lost, but there will also be jobs gained, and also jobs changed. In some ways, the jobs that are going to be gained and changed are probably a much larger number. So do I worry about a jobless future, I actually don’t. That’s actually the least of my worries.