While technology titans like Amazon, Apple and Google are rushing to roll out artificially intelligent (AI) virtual assistants to help us stream music or find the nearest sushi spot, a recent study suggests it won’t be too long before intelligent machines are outperforming human hands in surgical operating rooms and writing bestselling novels.

A survey of 352 AI researchers conducted by Oxford and Yale found there is a 50-per-cent chance that un-aided machines will be able to accomplish “every task better and more cheaply than human workers” within the next 45 years. They gave the same odds to the possibility of machines taking over “all human jobs” within 120 years.

“Advances in artificial intelligence will transform modern life by reshaping transportation, health, science, finance, and the military,” the researchers wrote. “These results will inform discussion amongst researchers and policymakers about anticipating and managing trends in AI."

The experts were asked to predict how long it will take for human ability to be outpaced by high-level machine intelligence.

Lead author Katja Grace and her colleagues found machines are expected to be able to beat the best human players at the popular video game Angry Birds and win the World Series of Poker by about 2020, fold laundry as well as a clothing store employee by 2022, compose high school essays worthy of a good grade by 2026, and drive a truck by 2027.

The pace of robot incursion into human-dominated fields picks up rapidly from there. The researchers expect machines will be able to produce new original music that sounds exactly like living artists by late-2027, and compose tracks worthy of the U.S. Top 40 chart less than a year later.

The fastest bipedal robot body could leave top human runners in the dust by 2028. AI machines could also pen a New York Times bestseller by 2050, and prove mathematical theorems worthy of publication in top math journals by 2060.

The study’s authors admit the prospect of unaided machines accomplishing every task better and more cheaply than human workers raises far more questions than answers. One thing the majority (67 per cent) of those surveyed are sure of is that the pace of development is rapidly picking up.

Just under half (48 per cent) of those surveyed said more research needs to be done to minimize the potential downside risks of such sweeping changes. However most expect the shift to robot labour will be a good thing.

The median probability was 25 per cent for a “good” outcome, followed by 20 per cent, who predicted an “extremely good” result.

The probability for a “bad” outcome came in at 10 per cent. Five per cent expected an “extremely bad” scenario. The study said “human extinction” would be one such example.