The company's welders and boilermakers like Mike Robinson have moved off the factory floor into the office and now sit alongside computer scientists and artificial intelligence experts. "We've gone from marking material out on your hands and knees by hand and cutting it by hand, to profile cutting out by computer technology," Mr Robinson said. Economist and director of consultants Alpha Beta, Andrew Charlton, has been studying whether there is any truth to concerns that the pace of automation is increasing and will end in mass unemployment. "The rate today is no higher than it was in the peak of the 1950s and 60s, when automation was taking thousands of jobs out of agriculture, no greater than it was in the 70s and 80s when automation was taking thousands of jobs out of manufacturing," Dr Charlton said. "What's new today is that automation is affecting predominantly white-collar jobs more and more than it ever has in the past." Studies have shown two-thirds of the shift away from automatable tasks will be driven by people changing the way they work, not changing jobs. Machines have long been replacing blue collar factory workers, but now artificial intelligence is threatening white collar jobs. It is a trend evident in legal and paralegal circles where the more mundane functions are increasingly handed over to artificial intelligence (AI) platforms. "The reason you do that is very simple — [it] is that people in business are very frustrated that the traditional mode of receiving legal services, and this [automation] just delivers legal services faster and more cost effectively that we ever thought imaginable," said Andrew Mellett, CEO of software developer Plexus. Mr Mellett took four years to develop the Plexus platform, which clients, including Medibank, Optus and Loreal, use for contract work. "The huge amount of work that is done in law firms is frankly not interesting and lawyers are very talented and intelligent people," he said. "What's exciting for us is that we are able to create career paths that people are far more engaged and excited to come to work each day." Mr Mellett said the increase in productivity has not come at the expense of legal jobs.
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