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Robot Revolution: Rise of 'thinking' Machines Could Exacerbate Inequality

Robots on display at an industry fair in Shanghai in November.

A study cited in a Bank of America Merrill Lynch report suggests more than a third of U.K. employees and nearly half of U.S. workers could lose their jobs to "thinking" machines in the next two decades.

Credit: Imaginechina/Corbis

More than one third of U.K. employees and nearly half of U.S. workers could lose their jobs to "thinking" machines over the next 20 years, according to an Oxford University study cited in a new report from Bank of America Merrill Lynch analysts.

"Many of the jobs created in recent years are low-paying, manual, or services jobs which are generally considered 'high risk' for replacement," the report warns. "One major risk off the back of the take-up of robots and artificial intelligence [AI] is the potential for increasing labor polarization, particularly for low-paying jobs such as service occupations, and a hollowing-out of middle income manual labor jobs."

There also is a threat of computers taking over knowledge-intensive tasks such as credit-rating analysis and financial advice-giving, which could end up saving $9 trillion in global wage costs, according to a 2013 McKinsey Global Institute report.

Merrill Lynch analyst Bijia Ma says workers concerned about the advent of robot labor should refine their job skills to ensure longevity. However, she also cites a recent Pew survey in which nearly half of respondents expected the rise of AI and robots to entail "a massive detrimental impact on society, where digital agents displace both blue- and white-collar workers, leading to income inequality and breakdowns in social order."

From The Guardian
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