As recently as 1850, the U.S. workforce spent 80% of its time on basic tasks. Farmers had to spend almost all day in the fields, and they had little time for anything else. Today, thanks to mechanization, we spend only 10% of our time performing basic tasks.
By 1940, the rise of manufacturing and the assembly line created the middle class. The developed world’s labor force was spending 80% of its time on repetitive tasks. That work provided a good living for many, and it happened to be made up of tasks that technology has been automating away since then. To give you one example close to home for me: Mutual fund net asset values, once calculated by hand in a leather-bound ledger, are now determined more quickly and accurately by computer.
Today, we estimate that we spend about 50% of our time on advanced tasks. Art and engineering are among the professions that scored the highest for advanced tasks in our research, but every occupation we looked at has moved up the task complexity ladder. And over the past 15 years, technological advances have increased the proportion of advanced tasks most quickly in auto mechanics, astronomy, and desktop publishing.”
Robots will build better jobs