Automation By the Numbers: What It Might Mean for Your Job

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Citing the results of an Oxford study released last year, Bill Gates remarked earlier this month that half the workforce would be lost to software automation within 20 years. The study predicts that within two decades, 47 percent of American jobs are at high risk of being replaced by automation, and even skilled careers — such as lawyers or anesthesiologists – are not immune. But what does that mean for you and the future of your career? Here are some answers, broken down by the numbers (statistics are taken from the Bureau of Labor).

Healthcare and social assistance

While there are some automation advances in healthcare, such as IBM’s Jeopardy-winning Watson making headlines with its diagnostic skills and Johnson & Johnson’s Sedasys, healthcare occupations requiring social intelligence — such as doctors, nurses and social workers – currently seem safe. While not likely to threaten the profession, surgery has seen increasing automation in the past decade. In 2006, Intuitive Surgical’s DaVinci system made news when it successfully performed cardiac surgery on a patient in Italy while the surgeon controlling the procedure was in Boston. In 2012, the DaVinci system performed or assisted in 450,000 procedures worldwide.


Currently counting 15 million employees in its workforce, that number is likely to be strongly reduced by a 92 percent chance of automatization, according to the Oxford study. Self-checkout lanes at pharmacy and grocery chains across the country have become commonplace in recent years, as well as automated retailers for brands such as Best Buy and Macy’s in malls and airports.

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