Automation is already claiming UK jobs: study

Research from job search engine Adzuna has found that almost two thirds of the fastest declining job roles in the UK are dropping due to automation. The report, The Start of the Curve, found that 13 of the 20 steepest declines were feeling the effects of increasing automation.

In order to judge the ways in which the job market is changing, the report analysed over 79 million UK job adverts from the previous two years to put together a record of nearly all UK vacancies advertised in that period.

Among the fastest declining roles were pharmacy assistants, travel agents and translators. Perhaps surprisingly, given the creative nature of the work, illustrators and writers also found their way into the top ten occupations in decline.

That’s not to say it’s all bad, however, as the study also noted that advancing technology is serving to create roles in other areas.

“The robots are not just coming, they are here already – in our pockets, workplaces and homes. Automation is already replacing jobs and could be set to replace some roles – like translators and travel agents – entirely. But, at least in the short term, AI advances seem to be creating new jobs just as fast,” said Doug Monro, co-founder of Adzuna.

“Tech is changing the shape of industries in more complex ways than previously predicted.  For example in the creative and design fields, previously feted as ‘robot-proof’, we are seeing that software and technological tools can help even the most creative of professionals automate tasks, find efficiencies in workflows, and change the way they work.“

Providing context for the study was the 2013 paper by Frey & Osborne, The Future of Employment, which made predictions as to what the coming years of UK jobs would look like. However, while the shifting nature of the job market is notable, Adzuna’s report found that jobs predicted to be extinct in 10-20 years still have some way to go.

Nail technicians, retail security officers and full stack developers all featured in the five fastest growing professions in the UK. As can be seen with the selection, the key drivers for growing roles that Adzuna identified were increases in disposable income spent on services, emerging technologies and rising demand for manual workers.

Notably, the same changing technology that is causing the decline of some roles is attributed to causing 25% of the fastest rising roles. While automation is undoubtedly causing a dent in large chunks of the job market, it’s opening up opportunities to be exploited elsewhere.

“The wave of technological innovation is undoubtedly gathering momentum, and Adzuna analysis suggests this force could well be set to significantly change the shape of the UK job market by 2040” James Neave, head of data science at Adzuna, concluded.

“Although no-one has a crystal ball on this, it looks likely a substantial portion of all desk-based jobs will become automated within the next 25 years.”

Researchers discover remains of “Triassic Jaws” who dominated the seas after Earth’s most severe mass extinction event

Researchers have discovered the fossil remains of an unknown large predatory fish called Birgeria: an approximately 1.8-meter-long primitive bony fish with long jaws and sharp teeth that swallowed its prey whole.

Swiss and US researchers led by the Paleontological Institute and Museum of the University of Zurich say the Birgeria dominated the sea that once covered present-day Nevada one million years after the mass extinction.

Its period of dominance began following “the most catastrophic mass extinction on Earth”, which took place about 252 million years ago – at the boundary between the Permian and Triassic geological periods.

Image courtesy of UZH. Featured image courtesy of Nadine Bösch

Up to 90% of the marine species of that time were annihilated, and before the discovery of the Birgeria, palaeontologists had assumed that the first predators at the top of the food chain did not appear until the Middle Triassic epoch about 247 to 235 million years ago.

“The surprising find from Elko County in northeastern Nevada is one of the most completely preserved vertebrate remains from this time period ever discovered in the United States,” emphasises Carlo Romano, lead author of the study.

Although, species of Birgeria existed worldwide. The most recent discovery belongs to a previously unknown species called Birgeria Americana, and is the earliest example of a large-sized Birgeria species, about one and a half times longer than geologically older relatives.

The researchers say the discovery of Birgeria is proof that food chains recovered quicker than previously thought from Earth’s most devastating mass extinction event.

According to earlier studies, marine food chains were shortened after the mass extinction event and recovered only slowly and stepwise.

However, finds such as the newly discovered Birgeria species and the fossils of other vertebrates now show that so-called apex predators (animals at the very top of the food chain) already lived early after the mass extinction.

“The vertebrates from Nevada show that previous interpretations of past biotic crises and associated global changes were too simplistic,” said Romano.

Revolutionary DNA sunscreen gives better protection the longer its worn

Researchers have developed a ground-breaking sunscreen made of DNA that offers significant improvements over conventional versions.

Unlike current sunscreens, which need to be reapplied regularly to remain effective, the DNA sunscreen improves over time, offering greater protection the longer it is exposed to the sun.

In addition, it also keeps the skin hydrated, meaning it could also be beneficial as a treatment for wounds in extreme or adverse environments.

Developed by researchers from Binghamton University, State University of New York, the innovative sunscreen could prove essential as temperatures climb and many are increasingly at risk of conditions caused by excessive UV exposure, such as skin cancer.

“Ultraviolet (UV) light can actually damage DNA, and that’s not good for the skin,” said Guy German, assistant professor of biomedical engineering at Binghamton University.

“We thought, let’s flip it. What happens instead if we actually used DNA as a sacrificial layer? So instead of damaging DNA within the skin, we damage a layer on top of the skin.”

The DNA sunscreen has the potential to become a standard, significantly improving the safety of spending time in the sun

The research, which is published today in the journal Scientific Reports, involved the development of thin crystalline DNA films.

These films are transparent in appearance, but able to absorb UV light; when the researchers exposed the film to UV light, they found that its absorption rate improved, meaning the more UV is was exposed to, the more it absorbed.

“If you translate that, it means to me that if you use this as a topical cream or sunscreen, the longer that you stay out on the beach, the better it gets at being a sunscreen,” said German.

The film will no doubt attract the attention of sunscreen manufacturers, who will likely be keen to commercialise such a promising product. However, the researchers have not said if there is any interest as yet, and if there is any clear timeline to it becoming a commercial product.

 

The film’s properties are not just limited to sun protection, however. The DNA film can also store water at a far greater rate than conventional skin, limiting water evaporation and increasing the skin’s hydration.

As a result, the film is also being explored as a wound covering, as it would allow the wound to be protected from the sun, keep it moist – an important factor for improved healing – and allow the wound to be monitored without needing to remove the dressing.

“Not only do we think this might have applications for sunscreen and moisturizers directly, but if it’s optically transparent and prevents tissue damage from the sun and it’s good at keeping the skin hydrated, we think this might be potentially exploitable as a wound covering for extreme environments,” said German.