Over 30% of All American Jobs to Be Lost to Automation by 2030, Says New Study

A report on the effects of global automation highlights the dramatic changes over the next 13 years.

robots at a car plant
A general view shows the body welding workshop which uses automated welding machine robots that assemble automobile bodies called white body (body before painting) at Toyota Motor's Tsutsumi plant in Toyota, Aichi prefecture on December 4, 2014.(Photo cre


Maybe your worries about having a robotic overlord are not warranted in the short term, but losing a job to a robot might be a fact of life that’s just around the corner. A new study predicts that up to a third of all American jobs will be lost to automation within the next 13 years.

The study by McKinsey Global Institute, a think tank that specializes in business and economics, says that nearly 70 million U.S. workers would have to find new occupations by 2030. This will happen due to advances in robotics, artificial intelligence and machine learning. 

Machines will become better than humans at a variety of skills, including some that require cognitive abilities. Automated technologies will also be producing significantly fewer errors, allowing businesses to improve productivity, quality and speed. Employing humans will become an illogical option in some professions. People would need retraining or enter completely new fields, concludes the report’s co-author, Michael Chui, a partner at the McKinsey Global Institute.

“We believe that everyone will need to do retraining over time,” he said, according to the Washington Post.

The researchers believe the coming changes will affect people across different career levels. Certain sectors will be affected more than others. By 2030, the demand for office workers, including anyone involved in administrative tasks, should fall by 20%, predict the researchers. Up to 30% of the people in jobs requiring “predictable physical work” like in construction or the food industry, for example, could lose their jobs as well. 

These are the types of activities inherent in some jobs that are more susceptible to be replaced by automation:

Jobs that require creativity or more human interaction, like being a lawyer, manager, a doctor or a teacher would be less under the knife from automation, think the scientists. There could also be new type of jobs in supporting the technology that will arise. 

The changes won’t just hit the U.S. but will reverberate around the world. The scientists say that up to 800 billion employees perform “technically automatable activities” and will find themselves out of that work by 2030. On the flip side, the researchers say up to 280 million new jobs could be created from increased spending on consumer goods and another 85 million jobs from more spending on health and education. 

These are the U.S. industries most likely to be affected by automation:

The authors see the looming transformation akin to what happened in the United States and Europe in the early 1900s, when global industry switched from farming to factory work. Overall, their message is not one of doom. They do not want to scare people but rather prepare for an inevitable transition, especially highlighting the need for mass retraining.

You can learn more about the study and read it here.

This is what aliens would 'hear' if they flew by Earth

A Mercury-bound spacecraft's noisy flyby of our home planet.

Image source: sdecoret on Shutterstock/ESA/Big Think
Surprising Science
  • There is no sound in space, but if there was, this is what it might sound like passing by Earth.
  • A spacecraft bound for Mercury recorded data while swinging around our planet, and that data was converted into sound.
  • Yes, in space no one can hear you scream, but this is still some chill stuff.

First off, let's be clear what we mean by "hear" here. (Here, here!)

Sound, as we know it, requires air. What our ears capture is actually oscillating waves of fluctuating air pressure. Cilia, fibers in our ears, respond to these fluctuations by firing off corresponding clusters of tones at different pitches to our brains. This is what we perceive as sound.

All of which is to say, sound requires air, and space is notoriously void of that. So, in terms of human-perceivable sound, it's silent out there. Nonetheless, there can be cyclical events in space — such as oscillating values in streams of captured data — that can be mapped to pitches, and thus made audible.

BepiColombo

Image source: European Space Agency

The European Space Agency's BepiColombo spacecraft took off from Kourou, French Guyana on October 20, 2019, on its way to Mercury. To reduce its speed for the proper trajectory to Mercury, BepiColombo executed a "gravity-assist flyby," slinging itself around the Earth before leaving home. Over the course of its 34-minute flyby, its two data recorders captured five data sets that Italy's National Institute for Astrophysics (INAF) enhanced and converted into sound waves.

Into and out of Earth's shadow

In April, BepiColombo began its closest approach to Earth, ranging from 256,393 kilometers (159,315 miles) to 129,488 kilometers (80,460 miles) away. The audio above starts as BepiColombo begins to sneak into the Earth's shadow facing away from the sun.

The data was captured by BepiColombo's Italian Spring Accelerometer (ISA) instrument. Says Carmelo Magnafico of the ISA team, "When the spacecraft enters the shadow and the force of the Sun disappears, we can hear a slight vibration. The solar panels, previously flexed by the Sun, then find a new balance. Upon exiting the shadow, we can hear the effect again."

In addition to making for some cool sounds, the phenomenon allowed the ISA team to confirm just how sensitive their instrument is. "This is an extraordinary situation," says Carmelo. "Since we started the cruise, we have only been in direct sunshine, so we did not have the possibility to check effectively whether our instrument is measuring the variations of the force of the sunlight."

When the craft arrives at Mercury, the ISA will be tasked with studying the planets gravity.

Magentosphere melody

The second clip is derived from data captured by BepiColombo's MPO-MAG magnetometer, AKA MERMAG, as the craft traveled through Earth's magnetosphere, the area surrounding the planet that's determined by the its magnetic field.

BepiColombo eventually entered the hellish mangentosheath, the region battered by cosmic plasma from the sun before the craft passed into the relatively peaceful magentopause that marks the transition between the magnetosphere and Earth's own magnetic field.

MERMAG will map Mercury's magnetosphere, as well as the magnetic state of the planet's interior. As a secondary objective, it will assess the interaction of the solar wind, Mercury's magnetic field, and the planet, analyzing the dynamics of the magnetosphere and its interaction with Mercury.

Recording session over, BepiColombo is now slipping through space silently with its arrival at Mercury planned for 2025.

Study helps explain why motivation to learn declines with age

Research suggests that aging affects a brain circuit critical for learning and decision-making.

Photo by Reinhart Julian on Unsplash
Mind & Brain

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Why not just divide the United States in slices of equal population?

The contiguous U.S., horizontally divided into deciles (ten bands of equal population).

Image: u/curiouskip, reproduced with kind permission.
Strange Maps
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  • Seattle is the biggest city in the emptiest longitudinal band, San Antonio rules the largest north-south slice.
  • Curiously, six cities are the 'capitals' of both their horizontal and vertical deciles.
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Surprising Science

Scientists discover why fish evolved limbs and left water

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