The automation of jobs threatens to completely change the economy and the way we work. Are you safe from the rise of the machines?
Here at Android Authority, I’ve been really pushing the idea of working online. The web makes it easier than ever to gain new qualifications and skills, and look for work in those areas. Working remotely has countless advantages, whether it’s ditching the commute, setting your own hours, or getting to enjoy lunch with friends. It benefits employers too, and more and more companies are starting to outsource to online professionals.
25 percent of jobs in the US are in danger of being replaced in the next decade
However, there is another, even more compelling reason to start working online: the automation of jobs. Automation refers to when companies replace human workers with algorithms and machines that carry out the exact same work, only far faster and with far lower overhead. It’s happening in a lot of industries, and many traditional jobs are likely to disappear within the next decade.
According to a report conducted by Washington think tank the Brookings Institution, 25% of jobs in the U.S. are in danger of being replaced in the next decade.
The rise of the machines
Certain types of work are ripe for automation. This particularly includes any work that can be categorized as “boring and repetitive.” That means things like data entry, shelf-stacking, and proofreading.
In 2017, the Office for National Statistics in the U.K. conducted similar research. It concluded that the following jobs were at the highest risk of being replaced:
- Waiters (73%)
- Shelf fillers (72%)
- Elementary sales occupations (71%)
- Bar staff (71%)
- Kitchen and catering assistances (69%)
It’s easy to see how this might happen. With self-checkout systems increasingly common in stores, the technology is already in place for complete automation of those types of jobs. This can improve turnover for businesses, reduce queues, and help customers to avoid social interactions (that last one is big here in the U.K.).
Likewise, computer vision has improved enough that it’s easy for robots move around warehouses and select the right crates. And this will result in fewer errors, greater turnover, and zero health and safety concerns.
More resilient are highly skilled lines of work that require specialist training and qualifications. It is also generally believed that jobs requiring “soft skills,” such as bedside manner, are likely to be safer. Some examples of positions that are at lower risk include:
- Dental practitioners (21%)
- Secondary school teachers (21%)
- Senior professionals in education (21%)
- Higher education teachers (20%)
- Medical practitioners (18%)
If your job is on that list, you might be safe for longer.
What about creative jobs?
If you are fortunate enough to work as a doctor, an artist, or a writer, you might be smug in the knowledge that your job is probably safe for a while. Medical professionals, in particular, are considered particularly immune.
But don’t get too comfortable!
As AI progresses further and further, it threatens to even encroach on jobs we typically thought of as being purely the territory of human creativity.
AI programs have recently been used to compose entirely new pieces of music. And lest you think these pieces would sound somehow robotic or emotionless, they have been put to the test and stand up to close scrutiny. Even professional musicians cannot reliably identify music written by these programs.
Even professional musicians cannot reliably identify music written by AIs
You can check some out for yourself right now. Click here to have a listen to the album Genesis by Aiva.
The same goes for artists. Computers have long been able to create impressive works of art. One AI is even able to accurately mimic the art styles of famous painters, again to the point that even art experts are frequently bamboozled.
Designers are even more at risk. After all, design needs to serve a purpose, and machine learning algorithms are infinitely better at figuring out how to position and color a button so users click on them! Think of all the jobs already been lost to tools like WordPress and SquareSpace.
If it’s any consolation, we’re probably going to be out of jobs here at Android Authority too. The Associated Press has been using AI to cover Minor League Baseball games for years. How long until they can write about new phone launches?
While AIs will likely remain a fun gimmick for the next few years, we could realistically see writing and composing jobs become harder to find in the next 20 years.
So, no one is safe from the automation of jobs?
Many more jobs are likely to be swallowed up by the automation of jobs in the not-so-distant future.
Drivers’ days are numbered thanks to the development of self-driving cars, and as more warfare is conducted remotely via drones, even military personnel may find themselves in lower demand. Some pundits expect to see these vehicles used commercially next year.
Administrators and secretaries will likely lose out to digital assistants in many cases. There have long been plans for assistants like Cortana to “speak to one another,” and book appointments. Most readers will remember the frighteningly natural (though likely staged) Google Duplex demonstration from I/O 2018.
Read More: What is Google Duplex and how do you use it?
Manufacturing jobs will almost certainly dry up as 3D printing becomes more versatile. Builders will likely be challenged by robots soon, but this will get worse once more buildings are prefabricated at factories and then shipped to location. There are numerous benefits to building homes this way.
Smaller items like ornaments and furniture might even be things you print from home using a 3D printer. Maybe you’ll be able to speak to a digital assistant, give it the dimensions and properties of the object you want, then simply wait while it is printed in a matter of hours.
Meet your robot doctor
As for doctors and researchers, even they might eventually fall victim to the automation of jobs. The power of machine learning is such that programs can now use deep learning algorithms to more accurately detect cancerous skin lesions as compared with “real” doctors. In one study, AI correctly spotted melanoma 95% of the time, as compared with 86.6% of human dermatologists.
The AI could correctly spot melanomas 95% of the time
Robots are even being used in surgery, and not “in the future” — it’s happening right now! More than 5,000 surgical robots, such as Intuitive Surgical’s “Da Vinci” robot, were used in over 1 million procedures last year alone. These machines never get tired. Their hands are perfectly steady, and they can view their patients at a microscopic level for incredible precision.
Why would anyone ever choose to let a fallible human cut into them again?
Robots that can collect data from patients, monitor vitals, and facilitate diagnosis are also already in use.
The limits of job automation
Of course, a doctor’s job involves a lot more than simply identifying melanomas and cutting them out. This is where humans will have the advantage: by not specializing.
AI comes in a few flavors, but most still falls into a category known as “weak AI.” This means AI programmed to do one specific job. The surgical Da Vinci robot is not ready yet to deliver bad news, or to perform a prostate examination (thank God). It can’t even escort you to the surgeon’s office, or provide you with your gown.
Likewise, Aiva can’t sing, dance, or make jokes in front of a live audience at a concert. Nor can these programs decide to start composing something in a different genre.
We shouldn’t discount the “human element” entirely
For the foreseeable future, doctors and composers are more likely to use robots and AIs to assist them in their work. These will be advanced tools: examples of force multipliers rather than true automation. But when one doctor can use these tools to perform the work of ten, that’s still going to have a big impact on the job market. But someone will still need to be there to control the patient’s flow from one machine to the next, and to oversee each step of the process.
Likewise, we shouldn’t discount the “human element” entirely.
Someone looking to generate some high-quality computer game music on the cheap, or even an adaptive soundtrack, would be well served by an AI. Of course, there will likely always be a market songs written by troubled celebrities with big media profiles, too.
The good news
This is all sounds pretty bleak, right? It’s not all bad news.
For one, the automation of jobs is very good news for the consumer. Costs will go down, choice will go up, and quality control issues will become a thing of the past. Doctor’s waiting lists will likewise shrink, and you’ll never need to wait long for your food to arrive by conveyer belt when dining out.
This is also extremely good news for the economy. Estimates suggest the automation of jobs will likely be worth trillions. According to PWC, AI will provide a $15 trillion boost to the global economy by 2030. That’s just 10 years.
AI will provide a $15 trillion boost to the global economy by 2030
This means it might actually matter far less if you are out of work.
The only viable solution presented for the automation jobs at the moment is a “universal basic income.” The idea is that everyone will earn a basic salary, provided for by the automation of jobs, leaving them free to pursue creative and intellectual endeavors if they so wish. Basically, Star Trek-style living.
While this idea might seem far-fetched, it has been endorsed by the likes of Bernie Sanders and John McDonnell. Moreover, it has even been trialed in Finland where 2,000 unemployed Finns were given a basic salary of €560.
The experiment failed and was brought to a halt in April 2018. Apparently, it’s too expensive to pay that much money to everyone (no duh). I’m kind of surprised that nobody did the math first, but it could all be very different when computers are bringing in trillions of dollars for the economy.
We’ll likely see a rise in poverty, and potentially even civil unrest
Many are still optimistic that we will someday be able to choose whether or not we want to work, bringing about a kind of golden age.
Eventually, AI will make strides in medical research, programming, computer science, engineering, theoretical physics, and more. When this happens, we may find ourselves at the precipice of the singularity (a period of scientific breakthroughs that trigger rapid social change, causing either a utopia or the end of the world — no biggie).
The issue is just what happens between then and now. There will be awkward growing pains as the job market shrinks and governments don’t know how to react. At this point, we’ll likely see a rise in poverty, and potentially even civil unrest. The automation of jobs could cause a lot of anger and confusion, and we’ve seen the political fallout this can have too. No one is under any illusion about what could happen.
It’s this coming storm we need to prepare for. And by developing your skills as an online professional, you’ll be in the best possible position.
What to do right now to survive the automation of jobs
If you want to future-proof your career against the automation of jobs, there are a few steps you can take.
The first is to advance and diversify. That means advancing your current skills with qualifications and expertise. Don’t wait for your employer to put you on a training course. Seek out training and certifications yourself and complete them in your spare time.
Remember, AIs will have a harder time replacing jobs that require graduate and post-graduate degrees. Likewise, jobs that involve creative problem solving and outside-the-box thinking will also be difficult to replace.
You’ll be more agile, more valuable, and more competitive against the AIs
Diversifying your portfolio and skillset could also be a wise move. The more strings you have to your bow, the more versatile you’ll be. A single human employee that can do the job of 10 robots and AIs might still be the smarter economic choice for a big business.
If you’re in IT, learn about server maintenance, web design, programming, pentesting, and anything else to make you a more well-rounded candidate. This also gives you fall-back positions should your main job be eroded.
Brush up on your communication and people skills, they will become a big differentiator.
Likewise, think about the opportunities all this change will present. While a lot of coding jobs certainly face automation, more advanced programming will be done by human coders for a while. In particular, we will need more programmers to build and maintain those AIs and to help look after all that data. Likewise, we need data analysts responsible for for building the deep learning algorithms.
Read more: How to become a data analyst
Areas like data security will also probably be in increased demand. As AI controls more and more personal data, it will become immensely important that said data is kept safe.
Working online will also become increasingly common and necessary, as will contracting. This will allow employers to choose highly talented individuals from around the world who don’t require desk space, health insurance, or training. In short, you’ll be more agile, more valuable, and more competitive against AI.
Keep tuned to Android Authority, where we’ll be sharing plenty of tips and advice on how to prepare for this future by developing new, in-demand skillsets, and selling your services online.
Face it: A robot will probably take you job eventually. The automation of jobs is a relentless tide and there is no reason to suspect it will stop.
The only real question is how long it will take. For now, if your job involves a specialist skill, is multi-faceted, and has an element of personal care or tutorship, you will likely be okay. If your job involves a lot of repetition and isn’t particularly creative on the other hand, you might want to start thinking about a career change.
The automation of jobs is a relentless tide and there is no reason to suspect it will stop
If you want an answer more specific to you, then you could always check out WillRobotsTakeMyJob.com. You can enter your job title here and quickly get given a “risk level” as a percentage, but no one is entirely safe.
If you want to survive the automation of jobs and thrive in the AI-dominated near-future, you need to adapt.
It’s time to rage against the machine!