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STUDY: Automation, Artificial Intelligence Pose Risks to Area Workers (Subscriber Content)

By John Seelmeyer
Published: Last Updated on
Inside the Tesla Gigafactory. Image: Bob Conrad.

Inside the Tesla Gigafactory. Image: Bob Conrad.

By John Seelmeyer

Automation and artificial intelligence pose a high risk to the jobs of more than a quarter of the workers in the Reno-Sparks area in the next decade, according to a new study from the Brookings Institution.

That translates into more than 60,000 jobs that could be disrupted by currently available technologies — not counting further disruption that might occur as AI and automation technologies advance further.

Dire as the statistics may sound, the percentage of jobs in the Reno area at high risk places the region about in the middle of the pack among 381 metro areas nationwide.

The Brookings Institute economists defined “high-risk” jobs as those in which at least 70 percent of the work could be automated.

Automation’s potential is highest in three industries — production, food service, and transportation — that are cornerstones of the northern Nevada economy, the study found.

Low-wage, physical jobs that involve a lot of routine work are most likely to be automated. Jobs with high educational requirements — think of engineers — and jobs such as heath-care that involve a lot of human interaction are less likely to be threatened by AI and automation, the economists said.

Workers in the gaming and hospitality industries are especially vulnerable, researchers at the Institute for Spatial Economic Analysis at the University of Redlands in California have said.

While those researchers didn’t specifically look at the Reno-area economy, they estimated that 65 percent of the jobs in the Las Vegas area could be automated. That’s the highest percentage of any major metropolitan area in the United States, and researchers said Las Vegas is particularly vulnerable because its economy relies so heavily on the hospitality and gaming industries.

A hint at the future came in an announcement from Eldorado Resorts Inc. Tuesday that its Circus Circus casino in downtown Reno will be the first in the nation to replace all of its live table games with electronic games.

The casino operator said it’s also installing electronic table games at the Eldorado and Silver Legacy.

John Seelmeyer is a business writer and editor in Reno. In his 40-year career, he has edited publications in Nevada, Colorado and California and written several thousand published articles about business and finance.

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