Experts Answer: Who Is Actually Going to Suffer From Automation?


Thanks to rapid advances in the fields of artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics, smart machines that would have once been relegated to works of science-fiction are now a part of our reality.

Today, we have AIs that can pick apples, manage hotels, and diagnose cancer.Researchers at MIT have even developed an algorithm that can predict the immediate future. If only they could train it to predict how automation is going to impact the human workforce…


Currently, opinions on the subject are as varied as the types of AIs in development. In January, MIT Technology Review compiled a list of 19 studies focused on automation and the future of work. No two reached identical conclusions.

In 2017, research and advisory company Gartner released a study predicting automation would destroy 1.8 million jobs worldwide by 2020. That same year, another research and advisory company, Forrester, released their own report on automation and the workforce. According to their calculations, the U.S. alone will lose 13.8 million jobs to automation in 2018.

The numbers vary even more wildly the farther out you look. By 2030, futurist Thomas Frey predicts humans will lose 2 billion jobs to robots, while researchers from consulting firm McKinsey predict a comparatively paltry 400 to 800 million in losses.


Beyond the numbers, experts also disagree on the professions that will become automated, as well as where in the world will bear the brunt of the job losses.

Are teachers and writers safe or should they start thinking about a career change? What about lawyers and doctors? Will the U.S. be the nation to lose the highest percentage of jobs, as PricewaterCooper predicts? Or will Japan be hit the hardest, like McKinsey’s report concludes?

In an attempt to get to the bottom of the automation mystery, Futurism asked several experts to tell us who they believe will be most likely to suffer as a result of automation. Here’s what they had to say.


Edward D. Hess, professor of business administration and Batten Executive-in-Residence at the University of Virginia:

Automation is going to dramatically impact service and professional workers. To find work, one must be good at doing what the technology won’t be able to do well.

For the near term, those skills are: (1) higher order thinking (critical, innovative, imaginative) that is not linear; (2) the delivery of customized services that require high emotional intelligence to other humans; and (3) trade skills that call for real-time iterative problem diagnosis and solving and/or complex human dexterity.

Jobs that have a high risk of being automated are jobs that involve repetitive tasks and linear tasks that are easy to code: “if this, then do this.”