Fears that accelerating automation is going to eat its lion's share of jobs continue to plague corporate sectors. However, new research from McKinsey Global Institute may talk folks afflicted with automation phobias down from the ledge. The research group says that although half of today's work activities could be automated, it may not happen until 2055. Where the statistic falls along the S curve depends on various factors, such as breakthroughs in artificial intelligence and economic conditions, says Michael Chui, a McKinsey Global Institute partner and an author of the report. Chuiand other researchers analyzed 800 occupations and 2,000 job tasks.
James Manyika and Jacques Bughin are directors of the McKinsey Global Institute, and Michael Chui is an MGI partner; Mehdi Miremadi is a partner in McKinsey's Chicago office, Katy George is a senior partner in the New Jersey office, and Paul Willmott and Martin Dewhurst are senior partners in the London office.
Innovations in digitization, analytics, artificial intelligence, and automation are creating performance and productivity opportunities for business and the economy, even as they reshape employment and the future of work. Rapid technological advances in digitization and data and analytics have been reshaping the business landscape, supercharging performance, and enabling the emergence of new business innovations and new forms of competition. At the same time, the technology itself continues to evolve, bringing new waves of advances in robotics, analytics, and artificial intelligence (AI), and especially machine learning. Together they amount to a step change in technical capabilities that could have profound implications for business, for the economy, and more broadly, for society. Some companies are gaining a competitive edge with their use of data and analytics, which can enable faster and larger-scale evidence-based decision making, insight generation, and process optimization.
Automation is happening, and it will bring substantial benefits to businesses and economies worldwide, but it won't arrive overnight. A new McKinsey Global Institute report finds realizing automation's full potential requires people and technology to work hand in hand. Recent developments in robotics, artificial intelligence, and machine learning have put us on the cusp of a new automation age. Robots and computers can not only perform a range of routine physical work activities better and more cheaply than humans, but they are also increasingly capable of accomplishing activities that include cognitive capabilities once considered too difficult to automate successfully, such as making tacit judgments, sensing emotion, or even driving. Automation will change the daily work activities of everyone, from miners and landscapers to commercial bankers, fashion designers, welders, and CEOs.
A new McKinsey Global Institute report finds realizing automation's full potential requires people and technology to work hand in hand. As processes are transformed by the automation of individual activities, people will perform activities that complement the work that machines do, and vice versa. Factors that will determine the pace and extent of automation include the ongoing development of technological capabilities, the cost of technology, competition with labor including skills and supply and demand dynamics, performance benefits including and beyond labor cost savings, and social and regulatory acceptance. While much of the current debate about automation has focused on the potential for mass unemployment, people will need to continue working alongside machines to produce the growth in per capita GDP to which countries around the world aspire.