Automation to fundamentally change the job market within 20 years, says Oxford professor | ABC News
Date Posted:1 August 2016
Robots and computer automation will transform Australia's job sector within two decades if developments in the United States are anything to go by, says a visiting expert from Oxford University.
Associate Professor Michael Osbourne is in Brisbane this week to speak to students at the Queensland University of Technology (QUT) about the future of work.
Professor Osbourne specialises in machine learning and is the co-author of a study published last month that concludes 47 per cent of jobs in the US were at high risk of being replaced by automation within a generation.
"Increasingly, algorithms are able to perform not just routine manual labour in the way they have done in the past but also cognitive labour in a way that makes it much more difficult to draw that line between what is automatable and not," he told 612 ABC Brisbane.
Jobs linked to data entry, accountancy and heavy vehicle driving would dramatically decrease and in some cases vanish completely.
Driverless vehicles would be made possible as massive low-cost data storage capacities allowed for the creation of highly detailed 3D maps - an area already being explored by large mining companies, he said.
Earlier this month, QUT launched the Australian Centre for Robotic Vision, which is researching how to give robots hand-eye coordination and how to allow them to safely interact with humans.
Jobs least likely to be affected were those that demanded creative, social or dextrous manual tasks.
"We found there was a very clear, strong trend between the creative content of a job and its probability of computerisation and replacement by robots," Professor Osbourne said.
"That is, the more creative you are, the more safe you are from automation."
His study, Technology At Work, analysed employment in the US, the UK and in Scandinavian countries, where the high cost of living meant businesses were more likely to move toward automation.
"I should clarify as well that what we're talking about here is the likely technological capability 20 years' hence," he said.
"We're not necessarily speaking about all these people being put out of work because, of course, there will be new jobs created and there might be some kind of difficulty in obtaining public acceptance for a lot of these kinds of automation.
"One particular focus of our study was to try and identify what distinguishes man from machine, and I think what is common to both creative and social intelligence is the idea that we really have very deep, tacit reservoirs of knowledge about the society we find ourselves in that aren't readily reproducible in code.
"So it's very difficult to teach an algorithm - for example, the difference between a good painting and a bad painting.
"Without that capacity we're really unable to reproduce those kinds of creative judgments within a machine.
"The good news is that industries such as, for example, the installation of solar photovoltaic panels and insulation of wind energy have been a relatively large source of job growth in the US over the 21st century."
Construction jobs already impacted, says Master Builders
The impact of automation is already being felt on construction sites.
Master Builders Queensland executive director Grant Galvin said they are working to retrain the industry's workforce to deal with impact of robots and automation.
"It's beginning to happen here in terms of offsite prefabrication, but whole modules of bathrooms and kitchens are being prefabricated in China and actually lifted in as positioned," he said.
"So they're pre-plumbed, pre-wired - 30 storeys go up in 15 days and they can only do that due to the offsite prefabrication, which often involves a whole heap of different techniques that haven't been seen in construction before.
"Lots of industries have missed this and the car manufacturing is probably the perfect example, it didn't actually pick that the skill sets required by the employees is changing and it didn't actually adapt quick enough to that.
"So from a construction perspective, we want to work with everyone in the industry to make sure that we adapt to the changing technology, so that we can upskill people to make sure that we produce high-quality products that not only we can build here, but we can export overseas."
Source: ABC News