Wyoming Business Tips for Dec. 17

A weekly look at Wyoming business questions from the Wyoming Small Business Development Center (WSBDC), part of WyomingEntrepreneur.Biz, a collection of business assistance programs at the University of Wyoming.

By Mike Lambert, WSBDC Network Market Research Center manager

“I was on Facebook the other day and saw an unplugged robot jumping boxes and doing backflips. I didn’t realize they were getting so advanced. Do I need to worry about my job?” Bob, Lander

The age of automation is definitely here, and some experts say that 47 percent of all jobs have the potential to be automated by 2034.

Media are full of examples of technology replacing humans. Amazon is testing a store that does not have a checkout line, but uses customers’ cellphones and remote sensors to allow people to walk in, pick what they want and walk out.

You also may have heard about the test last year where a self-driving truck from Uber drove 132 miles down I-25 in Colorado to deliver beer, without a human at the wheel.

These types of advancements are amazing, but also can make us think about the future of work. There have been studies on this subject by experts in the field, and there seems to be agreement that jobs at the most risk are those that “are on some level routine, repetitive and predictable,” according to Martin Ford, author of “Rise of the Robots: Technology and the Threat of a Jobless Future.”

One of the most recent studies, funded by National Public Radio, points to the likelihood that specific jobs will be automated in the future. Some of the most likely candidates for automation -- all above 89 percent likelihood -- are:  bus drivers, roofers, accountants, line cooks, cashiers, credit analysts, loan officers and telemarketers.

Jobs least likely to be automated include recreational therapists, psychiatrists, health care social workers, choreographers, oral surgeons and elementary school teachers. These jobs involve building relationships and require genuine creativity, or the work is unpredictable.

Should you panic if you are in one of the threatened jobs? Absolutely not. These changes won’t happen overnight. If you are a young person looking at a certain career, you might want to keep these in mind and do research.

It also helps to remember that the famed economist John Maynard Keynes predicted in 1930 that a 15-hour workweek would be the norm for his grandchildren. I would bet that his great-grandkids aren’t working 15-hour weeks, any more than most Americans. Also, remember that automation doesn’t necessarily mean the loss of jobs. It just may mean that the work you do is going to be different. 

A blog version of this article and an opportunity to post comments are available at www.wyomingsbdc.org/blog1/.

The WSBDC is a partnership of the U.S. Small Business Administration, the Wyoming Business Council and the University of Wyoming. To ask a question, call 1-800-348-5194, email wsbdc@uwyo.edu, or write 1000 E. University Ave., Dept. 3922, Laramie, WY, 82071-3922.



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