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Self-driving vehicles and robotic clerks could take your job in 20 years

Jon Fingas, @jonfingas
March 8, 2015
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It's no secret that computers and robots have been putting people out of work in recent years, but that trend is about to accelerate... at least, if you ask the computers themselves. A machine learning algorithm from Oxford University has sifted through US Bureau of Statistics data and believes that up to 47 percent of American jobs could be replaced by technology within the next 20 years. One of the biggest concerns is in logistics -- self-driving vehicles are advancing quickly enough that they could replace the likes of taxi drivers, truck drivers and forklift operators. Retail is also at risk, since companies can collect enough data about your shopping habits that they might predict what you want more effectively than human clerks.

Don't be too quick to change career paths, though. The research assumes that this technology will transition from experiments to practical reality relatively quickly. There are sill plenty of technical and legal hurdles in the way, such as clearing autonomous vehicles for use on public roads. With that in mind, the research is a reminder that society isn't really prepared for tech-related job disruption on a grand scale. While Oxford's Michael Osbourne believes that humans will still have a place in creative and social work, many people aren't training that way -- and it's not clear that the market can handle a flood of new designers, artists and strategic thinkers.

[Image credit: Rethink Robotics]

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