Jun 162016

A recent report from the Brookfield Institute says that 42% of the Canadian workforce is at high risk of being replaced by computers and technology in the next 20 years. Suncor Energy is already planning to replace its fleet with autonomous trucks by 2020, which will lead to the permanent loss of thousands of oil sands jobs. Earlier this year Google’s AlphaGo program beat Lee Se-dol, the world’s best Go player. What makes AlphaGo different from other AI programs is that it doesn’t play by any specific algorithm to win. Instead, it learns from its mistakes and plays better after each game, which is similar to how we humans learn. 🙂 In the past automation has been restricted to laborious, routine tasks such as assembly lines in manufacturing. But new breakthroughs in artificial intelligence, advanced robotics, and faster hardware have pushed automation into cognitive occupations, such as driving and customer services.


The report puts a 70% or higher probability that high risk jobs will be affected by automation over the next 10 to 20 years. These “high risk” jobs include:

  • Retail salesperson
  • Administrative assistant
  • Food counter attendant
  • Cashier
  • Transport truck driver

However, there are also low risk jobs that have less than 30% chance of being affected by automation. These are usually higher paying jobs which requires critical thinking, people skills, and tend to be in the science, technology, engineering and math fields (STEM.) These positions include:

  • Trade managers
  • Registered nurses
  • Primary and secondary school teachers

Naturally the careers that require higher cognitive and judgement abilities are at low risk of being replaced by machine or software.

If you believe your job may be at high risk of automation then it’s best to learn some new technical skills or transition into a different position of lower risk. Being good with computers and technology will always help, and as time goes on the technical standards will increase. At one point in time being able to type 50 words a minute was considered a legitimate computer skill to include in your resume. But boasting about this common ability today would just be silly.

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