Machines will take over more than half of the world’s current workplace functions by 2025, according to a new report by the World Economic Forum. That’s up from 29 percent of functions today.
The World Economic Forum surveyed executives and HR staffers at companies in 12 industries and found that some 54 percent of employees at large companies will need to re-train and re-skill in order to meet this increasing automation.
“While nearly 50 percent of all companies expect their full-time workforce to shrink by 2022 as a result of automation,” the organization added in a note accompanying the data, “almost 40 percent expect to extend their workforce generally and more than a quarter expect automation to create new roles in their enterprise.”
Executives at the surveyed companies predicted job gains of 1.74 million by 2022, balanced against losses of 984,000 jobs. “Extrapolating these trends across those employed by large firms in the non-agricultural workforce of the 20 economies covered by the report suggests that 75 million jobs may be displaced by a shift in the division of [labor] between humans, machines and algorithms,” the organization added, “while 133 million new roles may emerge that are more adapted to this new division of [labor].”
For companies, automating processes is just one part of the equation; they must also train human workers to adjust to that automation. Whether employers will prove willing to take the latter step is a big question, of course; it’s realistic to assume that many companies simply won’t engage in what the World Economic Forum deems “reskilling and upskilling.”
For tech professionals who specialize in artificial intelligence (A.I.) and machine learning, the increasing automation of businesses worldwide presents a unique opportunity. A recent study by Indeed suggested that New York City, San Francisco, San Jose, Washington, D.C., and Boston are the cities with the highest concentration of open A.I. positions at the moment—unsurprising, since those cities serve as both economic and tech centers.
As a result of demand, salaries for tech pros with A.I. skills have crept steadily upward over the past few years. In mid-2017, Tom Eck, CTO of industry platforms at IBM, told attendees at a conference that “top-tier A.I. researchers are earning the same salaries as NFL quarterbacks.” Many quarterbacks make many millions of dollars per year, so you can imagine what those tech pros make.
But even for tech pros not in that highly specialized, ultra-highly-compensated tier, salaries in A.I. and machine-learning fields can easily drift into the six figures.