Could Robots Really Take Over Half of Human Jobs in Just 30 Years?

February 22, 2016 | Elizabeth Knowles

Doctor and robot
Photo credit: Tmeier1964/Pixabay

From drivers and file clerks to CEOs, nobody is safe.

Moshe Vardi, an Israeli computer scientist and professor at Rice University, recently made a bold claim to his colleagues:  He claims that machines could put more than half the world’s population out of a job in the next 30 years. Not only that, he believes that few jobs are immune to this take-over.

According to the Guardian, Stephen Hawking, Bill Gates and Elon Musk made similar assertions just last year.

Vardi isn’t worried about armies of drones or strong machines that can do more heavy lifting than humans; the Guardian calls it “a contest between human wit and mechanical intelligence and strength.”

SEE ALSO: The Potential of AI Weapons Has Tech Geniuses Terrified

He spoke at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) conference and said that, although a life where robots could do most of the work might seem relaxing and easy, he sees it differently.

“I do not find this a promising future, as I do not find the prospect of leisure-only life appealing. I believe that work is essential to human wellbeing.” This huge type of change in lifestyle could result in many critical existential crises.

McKinsey, a consultant company, published a report last year detailing research into which jobs are most at risk. Interestingly, the safest careers span both high-paid jobs like doctors and hedge fund managers, and low-paying ones like landscapers and health aids.

Maybe it’s time to train a new generation to find jobs that works with AI — robot repairmen for example — or ones that require particular skillsets that are exclusive to humans. Computer scientist Bart Selman believes that humans could “sort of be in a symbiosis with those machines [self-driving cars, household robots, etc], and we’ll start to trust them and start to work with them.”

Vardi emphasizes that now is the time to think about these upcoming issues — not 30 years from now when half of the population is out of a job: “We are in a presidential election year and this issue is just nowhere on the radar screen.”

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