Look around you. Whether you're commuting or reading this at work, it's likely that in just a few years' time, the person to your right or left will have had their job taken by a robot. Maybe it will be yours.

A new study published by Boston Consulting Group predicts that by 2025, up to a quarter of current jobs won't be performed by humans. Similar research by Oxford University found that 35 per cent of existing jobs are at risk of automation in "perhaps a decade or two".

Economists have been wrong about the rise of the robot before. In 1930 John Maynard Keynes said that a "new disease" of "technological employment" would be one of the obstacles facing future generations, predicting that we would soon be working 15-hour weeks. But what if he was not mistaken, merely ahead of his time?

Larry Summers, the former US Treasury Secretary, now warns that robots aren't just a threat to blue-collar jobs but "are hurting the middle-class worker" too. Certainly some of us will succumb. The researchers at Oxford ranked 700 occupations according to how at risk they were of automation. Psychiatrist? You'll be fine. Economist? You're on shaky ground. And if you're a telemarketer, insurance underwriter or library technician, you may as well save your spot in the dole queue now.


It's a damning verdict. But the robots haven't won yet. Many - those automated checkouts in supermarkets for example - have lots of room for improvement. But yes, robots have an advantage. They don't get tired or sick. They don't need coffee breaks or sabbaticals. They don't even need to go to the loo. Eventually they will get better at their tasks.

And as they do, something profound will happen. As Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee highlight in their new work The Second Machine Age, automation has allowed workers to do more for less. But pay hasn't kept up, resulting in a "decoupling of productivity from employment" - of wealth from work.

Sure, Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook's chief operating officer, says technological change has helped ordinary people to become billionaires from their bedrooms.

But tech billionaire is not for everyone. I take more comfort from the words of Mark Carney, the Governor of the Bank of England, who says he is "positive" about technological change. He says education is the key to keeping humanity off the scrap heap. Brynjolfsson says the future will not so much be a race against the machine, as a race with it.

Take my own case. Apparently, as a financial journalist, there's an 11 per cent chance I will have been replaced by a robot in two decades. I have a better chance of keeping my job than an air traffic controller, but less chance than a hairdresser.

Editors and comment writers, though, have just a 5 per cent chance of being replaced by robots, compared with 50 per cent for court reporters. Humans are more valuable when they have opinions, it seems. So perhaps you'll still see my name on these pages. That's the thing about old Homo sapiens. We learn to adapt.