A report shown at the 2016 World Economic Forum in January says millions of jobs will be lost to robots in the next few years. When thinking about who is most vulnerable, factory workers, drivers, and pilots come to mind. Surely the jobs requiring a human touch, such as artists, entertainers, and managers, will stick around, right?
Maybe some of those jobs will be safe. Managers, not so much; very soon, robots will be replacing humans in top management positions, even up to the CEO level. And that may happen much sooner than expected.
Robots are improving faster than we think
The Web is full of articles prophesizing which professions will remain unaffected by robotization. Two years ago, the most common were lawyer, doctor, and financial analyst. The surprising fact is not how wrong these articles turned out to be, but how rapidly our perceptions of which jobs can and will be automated are being eroded.
In 2004, the best self-driving vehicle in a DARPA challenge could not even navigate eight miles before getting stuck. Eight years later, Google autonomous vehicles had driven 300,000 miles without a single accident.
The world watched in awe 20 years ago as a computer beat the chess world champion Gary Kasparov. While amazing, the chess program (IBM’s Deep Blue) used a set of brute force and predefined rules to win, not real machine intelligence. At the time it was predicted that it might take another hundred years until computers would beat top human players at the boardgame Go.