The robots are revving up to take your jobs


Ben Walker reports from the Drucker Forum in Vienna

Even highly skilled professionals will see a threat to their jobs from robots in the coming years, delegates to this year’s Drucker Forum have been warned.

Professor Tom Davenport, an expert in management and IT, used the Drucker Forum in Vienna to warn the audience that many of the tasks that form parts of their jobs will be soon be automated.

“I looked at the list of delegates,” he said this morning. “We have journalists and editors. We have lawyers and accountants. Well I’ve got bad news for all of you. All of these jobs include tasks that have been successfully automated. Your jobs are not being automated in one sweep by machines. But for every 10 lawyers we have today we will soon need only eight.”

Professor Davenport added that automation has already done for many more routine jobs. “There are still 80,000 bank tellers in the United States,” he said. “But there were 80,000 40 years ago too. The US is a lot bigger than it was 40 years ago, so it had a lot more people than it did 40 years ago, but the same amount of bank tellers.”

The academic, from Babson College, said that professionals must now face parts of their job being automated in a similar way. “I don’t really fear for the people in this room because you are hard-working and intelligent and will find a way to succeed,” he said. “But bits of your job today will become automated.”

Charles-Edouard Bouée, chief executive of consultancy Roland Berger, who was also on the panel, said it was repetitive tasks that were most at threat. “Even when it’s a task that is ‘intelligent’, if it is repeated, it can be replicated,” the Frenchman warned.