As any number of reports have cited, the loss of American manufacturing jobs is not so much due to trade or even cheap labor overseas, but the automation of jobs. Positions that once required direct human input are now vastly more efficient. In fact, over 80 percent of US manufacturing jobs lost between 2000 and 2010 were actually displaced due to an increase in productivity and automation, not trade, as many politicians might have you believe.
While the decline in the domestic manufacturing sector has been apparent for some time—office-based and white collar work seemed to be immune. This is no longer the case. A 2013 study by Carl Benedikt Frey and Michael Osborne found that up to 47 percent of workers had jobs at risk of being taken over by robots in less than 20 years—that includes highly skilled jobs like pilots, radiologists, and even math teachers, in addition to customer service representatives and data entry clerks.
The question remains if the rise of robotic workers will be an apocalypse wiping out paid work for a huge swath of the population, or a revolution opening up new work streams and sparking opportunities for more creative and fulfilling work by freeing people from the drudgery of repetitive tasks. Until artificial intelligence reaches truly Arthur C. Clark levels, there are any number of things machines simply cannot accomplish. The trick will be to prepare yourself now for the coming disruption.
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