Disruptive robotic tidal wave will eliminate 6pc of jobs in US by 2021

15 Sep 2016

A new report looking at where AI technology is progressing in the workplace is leaving some fearful for their future careers.

It is hard not to fall into the trap of creating a picture of a future that looks like something from the film Terminator, especially when, every so often, a new report emerges that shows a different threat from robots.

One such new report was issued this week by market research company Forrester. It claims that 6pc of all jobs in the US that can be easily replaced by AI, across many different sectors, will be eliminated by 2021.

Future Human

Among those most likely to be affected include those working within customer service roles, which will be replaced by chatbots (AI programs designed to reply to customer queries online), or those working in transport, such as taxi drivers and truckers, with the advent of autonomous vehicles.

Writing in the report, Forrester’s Brian Hopkins said: “By 2021, a disruptive tidal wave will begin. Solutions powered by AI [and] cognitive technology will displace jobs, with the biggest impact felt in transportation, logistics, customer service and consumer services.”

This first example has recently been brought home to the people of Pittsburgh in the US where ride-sharing app Uber recently launched its first fleet of self-driving cars.

For the latter services, new software jobs are likely to be created to meet the demand for this chatbot future, but what happens to the humans left behind?

The future of personal assistants

“6pc is huge,” said Andy Stern, former president of the Service Employees International Union, in conversation with The Guardian.

“In an economy that’s really not creating regular full-time jobs, the ability of people to easily find new employment is going to diminish. So we will have people wanting to work and struggling to find jobs because the same trends are beginning to occur in other historically richer job creation areas like banking, retail and healthcare.”

Until then, Forrester believes that the many forms of AI found within our phones – such as Siri or Google Now – will rapidly develop in the coming years to the point that they will simply know what you want before you know yourself.

Offering a potential glimpse of the future, the report said: “The doorbell rings, and it’s the delivery of a new pair of running shoes, in the right style, colour and size, just as you needed to replace your old ones. And here’s the kicker: you didn’t order them. Your intelligent agent did.”

Robotic arm image via Shutterstock

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic