By Miles Brundage
In the early days of artificial intelligence research, it was commonplace for the well-educated academics in the field to (mistakenly) think that being “intelligent” meant being good at things that other well-educated academic researchers struggled at, like playing chess. We now know, however, that it’s far harder to get robots to do things that come naturally to us (like identify objects and pick them up) than it is to get them to prove logical theorems or find patterns in huge volumes of data—things we humans struggle at. This and other counter-intuitive trends in AI and research on the nature of human intelligence have discouraged researchers from trying to predict which jobs will be automated, but a provocative new study by Carl Frey and Michael Osborne at Oxford University tries to do just that, and their findings are alarming.
In “The Future of Employment: How Susceptible Are Jobs to Computerisation?,” Frey and Osborne estimate that 47 percent of U.S. jobs are “at risk” of being automated in the next 20 years.