Industry has a long history of benefiting from technological progress. From the spinning jenny to the personal computer, machines have not only made production and distribution easier, but cheaper, too.
But industry’s love affair with faster and cheaper ways to produce goods has its downsides. Since the earliest days of the industrial revolution, workers in every field have feared a more efficient machine would one day replace their jobs. Machines, after all, don’t ask for raises and can be discarded the moment they cease to be useful.
That fear has once again peaked its head, as is shown in authors David H. Autor and David Dorn’s New York Times article, “How technology wrecks the middle class.”
“Have we mechanized and computerized ourselves into obsolescence?” they ask. Autor and Dorn’s study explores how quickly advancing technology may not threaten everyone’s job, but it does appear to be responsible for increasing wage inequality.
Machines, they argue, typically only replace more menial jobs that require less education and therefore only negatively affect those who either can’t afford — or don’t qualify for — college or other technical training programs.
Oxford University researchers Carl Frey and Michael Osborne, however, believe there is reason to fear that even many jobs that Americans believe are exempt from robot takeovers are in danger of being mechanized.
“Algorithms for big data are now rapidly entering domains reliant upon pattern recognition and can readily substitute for labor in a wide range of non-routine cognitive tasks,” they wrote Tuesday in an article for Quartz.
“Those working in fields such as administration could once feel comfortable that a computer would never be able to do their job,” they continued. “But that will no longer be the case for many.”
Or, as Isaac Asimov wrote in his famous collection of short stories, "I, Robot," “Only the machines, from now on, are inevitable."
To know if your job is in trouble, check out these 14 jobs that are quickly being replaced by robots.