Engineering 101

Will You Compete with Robots?

One of the great fears regarding robots is which jobs they will take over and when? And, for each of us, will our career be unscathed?

In a recent study in Science Robotics, roboticists from EPFL and economists from the University of Lausanne weigh in. They developed a method to calculate which current jobs are most at risk and suggest career transitions to jobs with lower risk and brief retraining.

The study includes a new mapping of robot capabilities onto job requirements. The team used the European H2020 Robotic Multi-Annual Roadmap (MAR), a strategy document by the European Commission that describes dozens of abilities required from current or future robots organized in such categories as manipulation, perception, sensing, and interaction with humans. They also used research papers, patents, and descriptions of robotic products to assess the maturity level of robotic abilities, using a well-known scale for “technology readiness level” (TRL).

The result is a ranking of the 1,000 jobs, with “Physicists” having the lowest risk of being replaced by a machine and “Slaughterers and Meat Packers” facing the highest risk. In general, food processing, building and maintenance, and construction and extraction jobs appear to have the highest risk.

Finally, the authors translated the new methods and data into an algorithm that predicts the risk of automation for hundreds of jobs and suggests resilient career transitions. View the results at https://lis2.epfl.ch/resiliencetorobots.

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