Bank of America Merrill Lynch has warned that 45% of all manufacturing tasks will be automated within a decade. This figure currently stands at 10%. The impact of this on the job market will undoubtedly be tremendously significant.
And it's not just manufacturing jobs that are at risk from automation. Advancements in technology are threatening many jobs currently undertaken by customer service agents. Chatbots are being developed to respond to customer enquiries and are improving all the time to "learn" colloquialism and increase the accuracy and relevance of their responses.
Springbot in Facebook Messenger, the virtual personal shopper can apparently scour the internet within seconds and give you a list of shopping options within your budget. Pop-up windows on websites offering initial support are increasingly "staffed" by bots. Even fast food restaurants are outsourcing some of their ordering operations to their robotic personnel.
Where does this leave the human workforce? Will we all become redundant? Will robots rob of us of our purpose? Industrial and technological progress has always been met with some scepticism and fear. The nineteenth century saw Luddites smashing up labour-saving machinery and the publication of Frankenstein, Mary Shelley's exploration of the potentially terrifying effects of scientific advancement.
Time will tell. We are a resilient bunch and have adapted to all change to date. Perhaps the future will lead to a more engaged workforce unshackled from repetitive and mundane jobs, free to pursue more interesting roles. Perhaps we will all benefit from the humanoid robots currently being developed. Why they are invariably created to look like the women of male fantasy, however, I will have to leave to another post!