Automation is coming after jobs, from fast food workers to accountants. We analyzed which jobs are most -- and least -- at risk, given factors including tasks involved, the current commercial deployment of technology, patent activity, regulations, and more. The shift from traditional manufacturing to computer-enabled industry took nearly a century. But the shift from personal computing to billions of smartphones, massive networks, and the IoT has taken just a couple of decades. And the next phase of technological evolution is already underway: advanced neural networks that learn, adapt, and respond to situations. With AI and automation advancing at a breakneck pace, society's capacity to respond is being stretched to the limit. Cities are seeing front-end automated restaurants like Eatsa gaining popularity, while in factories automation has already arguably been a part of life for years (if not decades) in the form of heavy industrial and agricultural robots. Analyzing the automation landscape, we found that 10 million service and warehouse jobs are at high risk of displacement within the next 5 – 10 years in the US alone. Meanwhile, nearly 5 million retail workers are at a medium risk of automation within 10 years. To put these numbers into perspective, estimates are that over a few years the Great Recession of 2007 – 2010 destroyed 8.7 million jobs in the US.
Traditional and new-school retailers alike are using AI and robotics to automate various parts of the retail chain, from manufacturing to last-mile delivery. Retail is under pressure to crack the AI code. After all, corporations in every industry are scrambling to adapt and integrate artificial intelligence into their products -- and retail is no exception. Learn how Walmart, Amazon, Sephora, Zara, and other retailers are using AI to reinvent the brick-and-mortar store. For traditional retail giants, this means entering the playing field with the likes of e-commerce behemoths Amazon and Alibaba, both of which are leveraging big data and powerful AI algorithms to transform the retail space. In addition to fierce competition, the need for a change in strategy is being underscored by the record rates at which many US retailers are shutting down. In 2017 alone, 21 retail chains applied for bankruptcy, including high-profile names like RadioShack, Toys R' Us, and Aerosoles.
When artificial intelligence (AI) and its impact on jobs and the economy comes up, the conversation centers on blue collar jobs. Per The State of Automation Report, there are 4.6M such jobs at risk in the USA due to AI. But, the jobs of MBAs and their white-collar brethren will also be impacted dramatically by AI. A growing wave of AI-infused Expert Automation & Augmentation Software (EAAS, pronounced /ēz/) platforms will usher in a new era of AI-assisted or AI-enhanced productivity. This AI-enhanced productivity is threatening jobs at the lower end of the white-collar spectrum as evidenced by these recent headlines. But to start, Expert Automation & Augmentation Software will be more focused on augmentation, i.e., helping humans do countless complex tasks that are either beyond human cognition and/or inefficient for human beings to do (read thousands of pages of patents and understand key topics). Think of these AI-enhanced assistants as junior analysts (lawyers, journalists, etc) who never tire and who can process information beyond human capacity but who will still need the steady eye of a manager to make subjective judgments.
Robots in factories have historically been unwieldy, dangerous, and confined to large industrial settings. But now, smaller collaborative robots are overcoming traditional challenges in the robotics industry. They're paving the way for robot technology that gets us much closer to our Jetsons-like future. When George C. Devol, inventor of the automatic garage door opener, pitched his programmable Unimate arm, he was initially met with skepticism. However, "the robot had one advantage immediately," said Devol. "And that is that a robot can work three shifts, or 24 hours a day." Get the free data-driven report to see how robots are revolutionizing factories and manufacturing.
From advanced robotics in R&D labs to computer vision in warehouses, technology is making an impact on every step of the manufacturing process. Lights-out manufacturing refers to factories that operate autonomously and require no human presence. These robot-run settings often don't even require lighting, and can consist of several machines functioning in the dark. While this may sound futuristic, these types of factories have been a reality for more than 15 years. Famously, the Japanese robotics maker FANUC has been operating a "lights-out" factory since 2001, where robots are building other robots completely unsupervised for nearly a month at a time. "Not only is it lights-out," said FANUC VP Gary Zywiol, "we turn off the air conditioning and heat too." To imagine a world where robots do all the physical work, one simply needs to look at the most ambitious and technology-laden factories of today. For example, the Dongguan City, China-based phone part maker Changying Precision Technology Company has created an unmanned factory. Everything in the factory -- from machining equipment to unmanned transport trucks to warehouse equipment -- is operated by computer-controlled robots. The technical staff monitors activity of these machines through a central control system. Where it once required about 650 workers to keep the factory running, robot arms have cut Changying's human workforce to less than a tenth of that, down to just 60 workers. A general manager for the company said that it aims to reduce that number to 20 in the future. As industrial technology grows increasingly pervasive, this wave of automation and digitization is being labelled "Industry 4.0," as in the fourth industrial revolution. So, what does the future of factories hold? Manufacturers predict overall efficiency to grow annually over the next five years at 7x the rate of growth seen since 1990.