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Will a robot take your job?

Maybe, but don’t fight it. Instead, invest in continuing education for next-gen jobs.

From the pages of In Business magazine.

I love a good apocalypse. Alien apocalypse, vampire apocalypse, zombie apocalypse, it doesn’t matter. Give me one. Heck, give me all of them. If there’s anything that raising two young boys has taught me, it’s that the threat of a horde of zombies pales in comparison to the terror of an angry, rampaging toddler.

Of all the apocalypses though, a robot apocalypse might just be my favorite. There’s something especially terrifying (yet electrifying?) about a man-made intelligence becoming self-aware and coming to the conclusion it has no use for us.

That’s why I chuckled when I heard about, a humorous effort to make more accessible the findings of a 2013 report from Oxford’s Carl Benedikt Frey and Michael A. Osborne titled “The Future of Employment: How susceptible are jobs to computerisation?” can’t be taken too seriously, but it does offer some interesting insight into the growth potential of a variety of fields. Civil engineers have just a 1.9% probability of their jobs being automated. Their jobs are considered “totally safe.” Customer service representatives, however, are looking at a 55% chance of automation. It gets worse for librarians, with a 65% chance of automation, and subway and streetcar operators, who face an 86% probability of automation. Luckily for me, editors are only looking at a 5.5% chance of automation.

You can search for a specific occupation and select from a list of associated professions, or you can do a random search just for kicks. I was, frankly, surprised to see mathematicians have just a 4.7% probability of automation, while dancers are apparently looking at a 13% chance of robotic replacement. It is not a good time to be a cooling and freezing equipment operator or tender though. With a 93% replacement probability, “you are doomed,” the website says.

So, should we fear an imminent robot uprising? The short answer is, no.

According to a 2016 Fortune article on the subject of automation, history shows technology actually creates jobs rather than destroys them. “During the industrial revolution, workers worried about mechanization stealing jobs. And to a certain extent, they were right. In 1900, 40% of the U.S. labor force worked in agriculture. Today, that figure is just 2%. Yet, the workforce is still here. A recent study found that technology actually created more jobs than it destroyed in the last 144 years — saving many people from dull, repetitive, and dangerous work,” wrote NV “Tiger” Tyagarajan, CEO of Genpact, a global business process management and services company.

Tyagarajan recommends three things business leaders and workers can do to prepare for tomorrow’s tech-heavy jobs:

1. Stop neglecting math and science. Science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) are where many future jobs lie, yet only 16% percent of American high school seniors are proficient in math and interested in a STEM career. We need to find ways to make STEM fun for students. Tyagarajan suggests investing in hands-on, creative educational initiatives, such as building a robot or designing a dress out of lights and sensors.

2. Make learning the only constant. Change is constant and we’ll never go back to the old way of doing anything, no matter how nostalgic we may sometimes feel about “simpler times.” Tyagarajan says if new workers want to avoid becoming obsolete, they’ll need to move beyond the idea that education ends at age 22. Likewise, executives need to invest more heavily in continuing education programs for employees if they want to keep their company moving forward.

3. Stay passionately curious. “Technology is changing so fast that the skills that are relevant today could be worthless tomorrow, but for a curious person, evolving skills with the market isn’t a challenge,” notes Tyagarajan. To stay relevant, he recommends asking constant questions and surrounding ourselves with diverse talent to spur new, bold ideas.

All that said, it’s still worth keeping an eye on the robots. With new ventures like Potbotics, the world’s first virtual budtender, coming online, we can never be too cautious.

Click here to sign up for the free IB ezine — your twice-weekly resource for local business news, analysis, voices, and the names you need to know. If you are not already a subscriber to In Business magazine, be sure to sign up for our monthly print edition here.

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