In the modern world, algorithms do much of the digital heavy lifting.
Algorithms control the inner-workings of everything from particle accelerators to stock markets. They determine the news you see, what search results you get, how computers learn, and what gets recommended to you on Netflix or Amazon.
In short, society couldn’t function as-is without algorithms – and as we lean on them to run more things, it becomes more important for us to learn what they are and what they do.
Today’s infographic from Futurism digs into the origins of algorithms, and how they impact our everyday lives.
What is an Algorithm?
An algorithm is a predetermined set of steps for a computer to accomplish a task. It’s basically an instruction manual. And as in life, instruction manuals can be simple (e.g. building an Ikea side table) or extremely complex (e.g. filing a patent).
Below is “Sorting Out Sorting” (1981), a timeless primer on sorting methods. It clearly demonstrates the way computers approach sorting vast quantities of information by following a set of instructions.
A famous example of an algorithm is Google’s PageRank, which determines the order in which websites appear in Google’s search rankings. PageRank’s methodology is explained succinctly and effectively in the video below.
By building on a stochastic model called the Markov chain, PageRank revolutionized the way the world accesses information. The power of this algorithm is partially responsible for Google’s ability to control 41% of the online ad market, which is where Alphabet still generates the majority of its revenue.
How Algorithms Influence Society
Social platforms play a substantial role in delivering news and information to us. In fact, an estimated 44% of the U.S. population consumes news via Facebook. The more we rely on social networks to supply us with news, the more algorithms will influence what information we’re exposed to. Since social platforms are designed to serve us customized content, there is a growing concern that we are creating online echo chambers that crowd out opposing views.
Algorithms also have a profound influence on our economy. Roughly 50% of the market moves through high frequency trading – the process of using dedicated programs to make automated trading decisions to place orders. Large portions of our economy are now managed with very little human intervention.
In recent years, progress in the field of artificial intelligence has generated an abundance of interest and excitement. Deep learning (a technique for implementing machine learning) is making all kinds of machine-assisted tasks possible. Preventive healthcare, driverless vehicles, drug discovery, bioinformatics, and hyper-customized recommendations on shopping websites are all here today or coming down the pipeline.
The remarkable thing about deep learning is that it goes beyond what any human can program a computer to do. Programmers have instead used a learning algorithm – fueled by terabytes of data – to train it to perform complex tasks. The computer essentially figures out for itself how to recognize the desired objects, text, or actions.
Breakthroughs like this are the reason AI startups are now receiving billions of dollars of funding.
The Algorithmic Economy
The potential upside for technology providers are enormous, particularly if proprietary processes work on a global scale. An era where “things” will communicate autonomously and take actions without human intervention is sure to profoundly impact our society.
The big question is, what will we do once computers and algorithms are taking care of business?
The Outlook for Automation and Manufacturing Jobs in Seven Charts
How will technologies such as automation and artificial intelligence end up impacting jobs and the workforce? Here are seven charts that tell the story.
The Outlook for Automation and Manufacturing in Seven Charts
View the high resolution version of today’s graphic by clicking here.
Over the last decade, the prospect of mass automation has seemingly shifted from a vague possibility to an inescapable reality.
While it’s still incredibly difficult to estimate the ultimate impact of automation and AI on the economy, the picture is starting to become a bit clearer as projections begin to converge.
Today’s infographic comes to us from Raconteur, and it highlights seven different charts that show us how automation is shaping the world – and in particular, the future outlook for manufacturing jobs.
The Age of Automation
The precise details are up to debate, but here are a few key areas that many experts agree on with respect to the coming age of automation:
Half of manufacturing hours worked today are spent on manual jobs.
- In an analysis of North American and European manufacturing jobs, it was found that roughly 48% of hours primarily relied on the use of manual or physical labor.
- By the year 2030, it’s estimated that only 35% of time will be spent on such routine work.
Automation’s impact will be felt by the mid-2020s.
- According to a recent report from PwC, the impact on OECD jobs will start to be felt in the mid-2020s.
- By 2025, for example, it’s projected that 10-15% of jobs in three sectors (manufacturing, transportation and storage, and wholesales and retail trade) will have high potential for automation.
- By 2035, the range of jobs with high automation potential will be closer to 35-50% for those sectors.
Industrial robot prices are decreasing.
- Industrial robot sales are sky high, mainly the result of falling industry costs.
- This trend is expected to continue, with the cost of robots falling by 65% between 2015 and 2025.
- With the cost of labor generally rising, this makes it more difficult to keep low-skilled jobs.
Technology simultaneously creates jobs, but how many?
- One bright spot is that automation and AI will also create jobs, likely in functions that are difficult for us to conceive of today.
- Historically, technology has created more jobs than it has destroyed.
- AI alone is expected to have an economic impact of $15.7 trillion by 2030.
Unfortunately, although experts agree that jobs will be created by these technologies, they disagree considerably on how many. This important discrepancy is likely the biggest x-factor in determining the ultimate impact that these technologies will have in the coming years, especially on the workforce.
Will a Robot Take Your Job?
Is your job going the way of the robots? The Future of Jobs Report estimates the changes robotics will bring to the workplace over the next few years.
Will a Robot Take Your Job?
The Chart of the Week is a weekly Visual Capitalist feature on Fridays.
Are you ready to hand your job over to R2D2?
A recent study by the Mckinsey Global Institute forecasts up to 800 million workers worldwide could lose their jobs to automation by 2030.
Industrial machine operators, administrators, and service workers will be the first to take a hit. Meanwhile, poorer countries with lower investment in tech are less likely to feel the pinch.
Jobs Out, Jobs In
Today’s chart uses data from the Future of Jobs Report 2018 by the World Economic Forum to take a peek at the changes technology will bring over the next four years.
It shows while humans are handing over a larger share of labor hours to their robot counterparts, the future isn’t all bleak. Although 75 million jobs could be displaced by the coming shift in labor, there will be 133 million new jobs created as well. While certain jobs are becoming redundant, human skills remain in demand in other areas.
Here is the full list of jobs on the chopping block in 2022, as well as the careers that will rise in importance:
|Stable Roles||New Roles||Redundant Roles|
|Managing Directors and Chief Executives||Data Analysts and Scientists*||Data Entry Clerks|
|General and Operations Managers*||AI and Machine Learning Specialists||Accounting, Bookkeeping and Payroll Clerks|
|Software and Applications Developers and Analysts*||General and Operations Managers*||Administrative and Executive Secretaries|
|Data Analysts and Scientists*||Big Data Specialists||Assembly and Factory Workers|
|Sales and Marketing Professionals*||Digital Transformation Specialists||Client Information and Customer Service Workers*|
|Sales Representatives, Wholesale and Manufacturing, Technical and Scientific Products||Sales and Marketing Professionals*||Business Services and Administration Managers|
|Human Resources Specialists||New Technology Specialists||Accountants and Auditors|
|Financial and Investment Advisers||Organizational Development Specialists*||Material-Recording and Stock-Keeping Clerks|
|Database and Network Professionals||Software and Applications Developers and Analysts*||General and Operations Managers*|
|Supply Chain and Logistics Specialists||Information Technology Services||Postal Service Clerks|
|Risk Management Specialists||Process Automation Specialists||Financial Analysts|
|Information Security Analysts*||Innovation Professionals||Cashiers and Ticket Clerks|
|Management and Organization Analysts||Information Security Analysts*||Mechanics and Machinery Repairers|
|Electrotechnology Engineers||Ecommerce and Social Media Specialists||Telemarketers|
|Organizational Development Specialists*||User Experience and Human-Machine||Electronics and Telecommunications Installers and Repairers|
|Chemical Processing Plant Operators||Interaction Designers||Bank Tellers and Related Clerks|
|University and Higher Education Teachers||Training and Development Specialists||Car, Van and Motorcycle Drivers|
|Compliance Officers||Robotics Specialists and Engineers||Sales and Purchasing Agents and Brokers|
|Energy and Petroleum Engineers||People and Culture Specialists||Door-To-Door Sales Workers, News and Street Vendors, and Related Workers|
|Robotics Specialists and Engineers||Client Information and Customer Service Workers*||Statistical, Finance and Insurance Clerks|
|Petroleum and Natural Gas Refining Plant Operators||Service and Solutions Designers||Lawyers|
|Digital Marketing and Strategy Specialists|
Source: Future of Jobs Survey 2018, World Economic Forum. Roles marked with * appear across multiple columns. This reflects the fact that they might be seeing stable or declining demand across one industry, but be in demand in another.
New Jobs For A New World
While this coming wave of automation is bound impact the workplace, for now you might want to leave that torch and pitchfork at home – the robots aren’t out to steal your job just yet.
Oxford University researchers predict 47% of American jobs are likely to face automation over the next 20 years. However, the same study reveals 53% of jobs are unlikely to be affected at all. Robots are less likely to take over roles dependent on human interaction – like doctors and teachers. Workers in specialized roles, such as plumbing and care work, can breathe easy too.
Jobs in manufacturing, transport, and administration may decrease. But a potential rise in health, science, tech, and hospitality jobs is likely to offset this trend.
So the real question is, will robots replace your job, or make room for you to pursue a new career?
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