Robots kill jobs. Will the Bay Area be better off for it?

"A cafe in downtown San Francisco uses swinging robotic arms to make lattes. Companies are competing to build software for self-driving cars. At UC Berkeley, a delivery app’s four-wheeled, cooler-size bots ferry burritos, Big Macs and bubble tea to students.

Robots and artificial intelligence are starting to come for the Bay Area’s jobs — a theory endorsed by a new report from management consultancy McKinsey & Co., which suggests that at least 907,000 jobs could be lost to automation in the San Francisco and San Jose metropolitan areas by 2030.

That’s the bad news. The good news is that the Bay Area will be less hard hit than most of the rest of the country. The region’s job loss equates to 21.5% of the workforce, below the projected rate of 22.9% for California and the national rate of 23%.

In the San Francisco metro area, 61% of job displacements over the next decade could affect workers with less than a bachelor’s degree, said McKinsey. That figure climbs to 63% in the San Jose metro area.

The Bay Area has at least a baseline of jobs developing and maintaining machines that involve automation. It’s not hard to imagine blue-collar workers working in new kinds of manufacturing jobs that build and maintain robots, said Molly Turner, an urban planner by training and a lecturer on tech policy at UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business.

“I think the threat of automation is real, especially for low-income, low-skilled workers,” she said. “But over the long-term, I do believe … automation will create new kinds of jobs, as well.”"

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