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Automation is going to hit workers in three waves, and the first one is already here

February 7, 2018

A report released yesterday by PwC says the near future of automation technologies will arrive in three phases. The report calls them “waves” and maps out how they’ll wash over us:

1. A flood of algorithms. Already, data analysis and simple digital tasks are becoming the purview of machines.

2. Augmentation inundation. Into the late 2020s, repeatable tasks and the exchange of information, as in financial data analysis, will come to be done by humans and automated systems working together.

3. Autonomy tsunami. Starting by the mid-2030s, machines and software will make decisions and take physical actions, like driving cars, with little or no human input.

Job impact: Focusing on the UK job market, PwC economists predict that up to 30 percent of existing jobs could be affected by the mid-2030s, with a focus on transportation, manufacturing, and retail positions. (But, as we have said before, job predictions like these are hard to trust.)

A gender divide: The study suggests that women will initially be impacted more heavily by the rise of automation, while men are more likely to feel the effects in the third wave. A good number of us, it seems, may find ourselves at sea.

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Illustration by Rose WongIllustration by Rose Wong

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