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Is a Machine About to Take Your Job?

July 8, 2016, 12:15 PM UTC
Happy female teacher assisting elementary students in the classroom.
Group of school children in the classroom. Mid adult teacher assisting little boy.
Courtesy of Kelly Services

Michael Chui and his colleagues at the McKinsey Global Institute have an interesting piece out this morning that looks at which occupations in the U.S. are most susceptible to automation, and which are least.

At the top of the list are physical activities performed “in a predictable setting” – factories, fast food restaurants, etc. Also high are jobs that involve data processing or data collection – including some well-paying financial services jobs. The authors calculate that “one-third of the time spent in the workplace involves either collecting or processing data, and that both activities have a potential for automation exceeding 60%.”

Less susceptible to automation are jobs that involve physical activity but in “unpredictable environments” – cutting trees, making beds, collecting trash – or jobs that require interaction with other people – retail sales, purchasing supplies, etc.

Which jobs are least susceptible to automation? Those that “involve managing or developing people,” those where “expertise is applied to decision making and planning,” and “creative work” – which includes everything from writing software to creating menus to getting up at the crack of dawn to compose a newsletter (phew).

The safest jobs are in education. “While digital technology is transforming the classroom,” the authors say, “the essence of teaching is deep expertise and complex interactions with other people that machines so far are not good at.”

Fortune will be taking a closer look at the implications of technology in the workplace – as well as doing a deep dive into the digital transformation of education — at our Brainstorm Tech conference in Aspen next week. I’ll be reporting from there.