Will a robot take your job?

There is a vigorous debate about the effects of automation on jobs. Everyone agrees that some jobs will be lost to automation and, in turn, some jobs will be created by it. The pivotal question is how all of that nets out.

Often lost in the abstract debate is the question of exactly which jobs are likely to be automated. I have created a test to try to capture just that.

The idea is simple: Some things are quite easy for computers and robots to do, and other things are quite hard. Jobs in the “safe” category have lots of things about them that are hard for machines to do.

The good news is that it doesn’t take very many hard things to make a job, practically speaking, impervious to automation, at least in this century. While jobs like “hostage negotiator” are clearly better done by people than machines, even jobs that look like good candidates for automation have difficulties. In theory, a robot should be able to clean the windows on my home, in practice this isn’t likely to happen for quite a long time.

The test is ten questions, and each one can be scored from 0 to 10. For each one, I give examples of some jobs at 0, 5, and 10. My examples are meant to show each extreme, and a midpoint. You should not just score with those three points. Use 7’s and 2’s and 9’s.

When you are done, the total is tallied. The closer it is to zero, the less likely you are to get a surprise announcement from the boss one day. The closer you get to 100, well, if you start to feel something breathing down your back, then that may be the cooling fan in the robot who is about to take your job.

The goal is not to find a job near a zero. Anything below a 70 is probably safe long enough for you to have a long illustrious career. There are obvious “100” jobs. The person who takes your order at a fast food restaurant is probably pretty close.

Take the test here. We plan to calibrate and refine it, then publish a research report about the results. If you would like to be kept in the loop about that, be sure to add your email address.