Carl Frey joins Michael Osborne (Oxford Department of Engineering Science) in hosting an interdisciplinary workshop on the future effects of automation on the employment market.

The ability of computers to accomplish a task is dependent on the ability of a programmer to write a set of rules that direct the machine. Accordingly, computers and computer-controlled devices are highly productive and reliable at performing routine tasks – i.e. tasks that are sufficiently well understood to be specified as a series of instructions to be executed by a machine. These tasks characterise many middle-skilled and middle-income occupations, which core job tasks follow precise, well-defined procedures that can easily be codified in computer software and performed by sophisticated algorithms or robots.

Jobs that are intensive in either abstract or non-routine manual tasks, however, are much less susceptible to this process. Abstract tasks require problem-solving skills, complex communication, judgement and creativity. Manual tasks on the other hand demand flexibility and physical adaptability. As a result automation has in the past largely been confined to routine tasks. But there are now signs of technology also threatening jobs which core job tasks are manual and abstract.

The objective of this workshop is to examine how recent trends in machine learning, mobile robotics and communications technology may impact on jobs which are intensive in abstract or non-routine manual tasks. Doing so it raises the question of how susceptible related jobs are to recent technological developments.


13.00 Session 1: Trends in machine learning and mobile robotics

  • What are the current technological trends in machine learning?
  • What are the current technological trends in mobile robotics?
  • Which types of tasks are expected to be performed by intelligent machines 10 to 20 years from now?

14.15 Break

14.30 Session 2: How susceptible are jobs to automation?

  • Which type of industries and occupations are likely to be affected by the identified trends in machine learning and mobile robotics?
  • How susceptible are jobs to automation and how can jobs be categorised accordingly?
  • Discussion of some specific occupations. What breakthroughs are needed to automate them?
  • 15.30 Concluding remark
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