Forget Florence: Here come the robots

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I live in hope.

The illustration you see with this column sums up my determination not to let technology overwhelm me.

Nevertheless, there are ominous signs that the life I’ve known — and enjoyed, thank you very much — might be in for a serious shake-up.

Sadly, plenty of my North Idaho neighbors could be in for a similar jolt.

Perhaps the “new world” won’t be quite so devastating here, since Coeur d’Alene and Kootenai County have a shot to be out front in the development of robotics and artificial intelligence.

Baby Boomers like me won’t be participating in the revolution, obviously — although a few years ago I’d have howled with laughter if you said I’d be living on a computer with quick breaks to use my smartphone.

In any case, here’s where we’re headed...

AS MANY as 800 million workers worldwide may lose their jobs to robots and automation by 2030 — equivalent to more than a fifth of today’s global labor force.

That’s the future according to a report covering 46 nations and more than 800 occupations, conducted by the research arm of McKinsey and Co.

The consulting firm says developed and emerging countries will be impacted.

Machine operators, fast-food workers and back-office employees are among those who will be most affected if automation spreads quickly through the workplace.

Even if the rise of robots is less rapid, some 400 million workers could still find themselves displaced by automation, and would need to find new jobs over the next decade-plus, according to the study from the McKinsey Global Institute.

The good news for those displaced is that there will be new jobs available if they’re willing to accept transition, although in many cases they’ll have to learn new skills to do the work.

THOSE JOBS will include health-care providers for aging populations (hooray, someone to feed me oatmeal), technology specialists and even gardeners, according to the report.


I may get on the phone to the McKinsey Institute for an explanation on that one.

Seriously, how will a switch to robots mean we need more gardeners?

Oh, well.

Never argue with statistics.

“We’re all going to have to change and learn how to do new things over time,” said Michael Chui, a San Francisco-based partner at the institute.

Not me, Michael.


By the way, it’s not like the United States will be the worst killing field for workers displaced by robots.

The McKinsey study suggests that we’ll have to find new jobs for 75 million people who are currently employed.

Yep, that seems like a bundle, but India faces 125 million heading for transition and China a staggering 250 million.

I can’t see a problem in India, where there surely will be a need for a gazillion new call centers.

If there’s a ray of sunshine here in North Idaho, I’d guess it comes from the fact that a decent share of our population is either retired or busy imagining cutting-edge ideas at the Innovation Den.

Personally, I don’t need a robot to give me orders.

I’ve got Sammie the Cat for that.

• • •

Steve Cameron is a columnist for The Press.

A Brand New Day appears Wednesday through Saturday each week. Steve’s sports column runs on Tuesday.



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