The fear of a machine taking your job is not a new one: In 1811, workers smashed textile machinery in Nottingham, England, after the technology sidelined skilled knitters. This time around, labour paranoia is afflicting white-collar workers too.

Rapid advances in fields like machine learning, robotics and wireless networking are enabling computers to muscle in on occupations up and down every supply chain, from natural resources extraction to legal document management. Toronto startup OutsideIQ, for instance, offers a risk-management service that uses “deep learning” to perform financial due diligence for investors more thoroughly, quickly and cheaply than any human could.

A McKinsey report estimates that 45% of an average employee’s daily work could be automated with technology already in use today. In other words, most jobs won’t be taken over by robots wholesale, but many day-to-day tasks will be—and sooner than anyone is prepared for.


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