Chefs and chauffeurs: AI is coming to your jobs

Robots aren’t replacing everyone, but a quarter of American jobs will be seriously disrupted as artificial intelligence accelerates the automation of existing jobs, according to a new Brookings Institution report.

A Thursday report from the Washington Post says nearly 36 million Americans hold jobs with “high exposure” to automation, meaning at least 70% of their jobs could soon be done by machines using current technology. . Among those likely to be affected are chefs, waiters and others in food services; short-haul drivers; and clerical staff.

“Those people will need to upgrade their skill, skill or change jobs quickly,” said Mark Muro, a senior fellow at Brookings and author of the report.

Muro said the turnaround time could be “a few years or it could be twenty years.” But automation is likely to happen faster during the next recession. Businesses are usually eager to implement cost-effective technology when they are out of work.

Although the U.S. is in the midst of the second-longest expansion in history, and jobs data suggests the economy is healthy, many business leaders and economists have suggested in surveys that the U.S. could slip into a recession in 2020. in addition. , the partial government shutdown has created concerns about a recession.

Some economic studies have found that similar trends in automated manufacturing occurred in the early part of the previous recession and may have contributed to the “unemployment recovery” that followed the crisis. financial year 2008.

But new developments in artificial intelligence aren’t the only industrial and warehouse tools that will change American jobs. Self-checkout stores and computerized hotel rooms will play their part.

Most jobs will change somewhat as machines take over routine tasks, but mostly in the US. workers will be able to cope with that work without being displaced.

Some chain restaurants have already switched to self-order machines; A few have experimented with kitchens assisted by robots.

Google this year is testing the use of a digital voice assistant in hotels to instantly translate conversations in dozens of languages. Autonomous vehicles can replace short-haul drivers. Walmart and other retailers are preparing to open cashless stores powered by in-store sensors or cameras with facial recognition technology.

The changes will hit smaller cities harder, especially those in the heartland and Rust Belt, according to the Brookings report. The risk is highest in Indiana and Kentucky, where some counties employ nearly half of the industry’s powerful manufacturing and transportation industries. The changes will also disproportionately affect the young workers who dominate food services and other industries most at risk of automation.

“Restaurants will be able to cope with a much reduced workforce,” Muro said. “In the hotel industry, instead of having five people at a table to greet people, there is one and people basically serve themselves.”

Many economists have found that automation has a generally positive effect on the labor market, said Matias Cortes, an assistant professor at York University in Toronto who was not involved in the Brookings report. It can create economic growth, lower prices and increase demand while also creating new jobs that make up for those that are disappearing.

But Cortes said there is no doubt there will be “clear winners and losers.” In the past, the most vulnerable were men with low education who were mostly in manufacturing and other blue-collar jobs, and women with a middle level of education who were mostly in clerical and administrative positions.

In the future, the working class affected by automation may grow as machines become smarter. The Brookings Report analyzed the automation potential of each profession based on research conducted by the management consulting firm McKinsey. Those jobs that are not significantly affected will be those that require not only higher education, but also interpersonal skills and emotional intelligence.

“These high-paying jobs require a lot of creativity and problem solving,” Cortes said. “That will be difficult for new technologies to replace.”

This story was reprinted from The Wire without editing.

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