Will Technology Take My Job?
Fueled by advances in artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, and new generations of ultra-wideband cellular and Wi-Fi technologies, the global workforce is evolving, and the job market is changing rapidly. Over the next decade, many professions are at risk of being replaced by technology and becoming obsolete like switchboard operators, film projectionists, and turnpike toll takers. The bottom line is that technology and can perform some job functions cheaper, safer, and more efficiently than humans. This is particularly true for jobs that involve repeatable tasks in structured environments, such as factory and food service occupations.
We appear to be at a critical juncture, with some experts estimating that nearly half of US jobs will be automated and replaced by technology by 2033. However, this is not a new phenomenon. For example, during the 1800s, almost 80% of jobs in America were related to agriculture, while today, only about 2% of jobs in the US deal directly with farming and agriculture. There are also experts who believe that technology will create more jobs than it eliminates. They point to examples like ATMs that many people believed would replace the need for bank tellers, while in reality, the number of bank tellers in the US has grown substantially since ATMs became popular. So, while some types of jobs may be in danger of becoming obsolete, technology should also open up new career opportunities for others.
While it may not happen overnight, here are ten examples of occupations that may phase out human involvement over the coming decade as technologies evolve and become more pervasive.
Professional Drivers and Delivery Jobs
They may not be ready for prime-time today, but autonomous vehicles have the potential to be safer, more efficient, and cheaper than cars driven by humans. As the technology matures, self-driving vehicles will eliminate human error and be able to detect their environment better in dark, foggy, and rainy conditions than the human eye. From long-haul truckers and bus drivers to taxi drivers, chauffeurs, and rideshare operators, autonomous vehicles will have a significant impact on the US workforce. Due to their inherent safety, autonomous vehicles should also decrease demand for jobs such as auto body repair shops and auto insurance adjusters as well.
Drones and robots are already beginning to replace couriers and delivery drivers, so it may be only a matter of time until these types of jobs are eliminated by automation altogether. Drones are already capable of delivering pizzas across town, as well as delivering medicine to remote, inaccessible locations. There are still a myriad of issues, such as security and safety, to work out, but drone delivery is quickly becoming faster and cheaper than using human drivers and delivery trucks.
There are many conflicting opinions about whether airline pilots will be replaced by technology any time soon. Over the last thirty years, computers have rendered flight engineers and navigators obsolete, cutting the cockpit crew down from four to two. Additionally, autopilot and flight-management systems currently do up to 95% of the flying tasks on a typical flight. However, even when the systems designed to assist pilots today evolve into fully automated systems capable of replacing them, many experts believe that having human pilots in the cockpit will prevent accidents and make flying safer. Other experts point to incidents of pilot error or pilots deliberately crashing panes as a rationale for autonomous aircraft. The airline industry is keen on exploring the possibilities of autonomous aircraft, as replacing pilots could save them as much as $1.5 billion annually in pilot pay, training costs, and cheaper insurance premiums.
Traffic and Parking Enforcement Officers
Traffic enforcement technology already in place can detect speeding, running red lights, and unauthorized use of HOV lanes. License plate recognition and automated ticketing systems have enabled law enforcement agencies to cut back on personnel while making the streets safer. As cars become more connected and technologies advance, law enforcement agencies will have the capability of precisely tracking the location and speed of individual motorists and automatically issuing citations to motorists.
The rise of the internet of things and smart cities with ubiquitous sensors and cameras makes it likely that in the future, most traffic tickets will be issued by automated systems instead of police officers in patrol cars. The same is true for parking enforcement. Parked cars can be monitored from a central location with precise information about who is parking where and how long they have been parked there, relieving the need for enforcement officers to chalk tires or issue paper tickets.
Advances in AI and robotics will continue the trend of machines replacing human factory workers. Using robots instead of people is generally cheaper and improves factory productivity. While the need for some human presence in manufacturing processes won’t go away altogether, there will be fewer factory jobs in the future, and they will require workers with more education, expertise, and specialized skills. As AI extends the scope of robotic automation, machines will be able to make more sophisticated decisions in different types of situations, which will lead to more processes being automated, eventually rendering human assistance unnecessary.
Retail Sales Clerks
As online shopping continues to cut into brick and mortar sales, physical stores are looking for new ways to stay competitive, and they are turning to technology to help them manage their bottom line. Many retail sales clerk tasks, such as helping customers find items or restocking shelves, can be performed more efficiently by computers and robots. Cashiers are quickly giving way to self-checkout kiosks, and salespeople will soon be replaced by robots to answer customer questions and address their concerns. While experienced, talented salespeople peddling high ticket items like automobiles should stay in demand, the days of the retail sales clerk may be numbered.
Food Service Workers and Bartenders
From maître d’s, wait staff, bussers, and dishwashers to bartenders and dishwashers, robots are starting to play an essential role in food service jobs. Restaurants and fast-food chains are turning to foodservice robots to help defray rising labor and health care costs. In Japan, where robots are commonplace, more and more restaurants are relying on technology to perform the tasks traditionally done by human workers. Robots are more efficient and cost-effective, and they have the added benefit of drawing in patrons attracted by the novelty of being served by a robot. Although the novelty will wear off over time, the preference for cheap, efficient labor will have many restaurants switching from human workers to robots. With the price of robotics going down and minimum wage rising, you should expect to see more robots performing food service jobs in the near future.
The question is, will patrons prefer cheap and efficient over a more sociable experience? The answer may lie in AIs ability to enable robots to provide that social interaction. For example, a robotic bartender could assess your personality based on your appearance and then strike up a conversation based on your projected personality traits. It could also recognize you from previous visits and prepare your drink precisely to your liking. Over time, robots will be able to provide more sociable experiences, as AI conversational capabilities get more sophisticated and humans become more at ease interacting with AI assistants.
Contact Center Agents
In the years ahead, AI in contact center applications will anticipate customer questions, predict what they want to talk about, and provide appropriate responses throughout the interaction. Most callers still prefer human interaction to automated answering machines but eventually advances in AI will help callers get more done in less time. Automated systems can draw on multiple data sources to instantly get context for the interaction. AI will also be used to analyze all incoming calls using machine learning, natural language processing, and sentiment analysis to study vocabulary and voice qualities to improve caller’s experiences and solve more problems without human intervention.
Direct telephone sales can be a thankless job. Conversion rates for telemarketing sales calls are typically less than 10%. Most Americans view unsolicited sales calls as disruptive, annoying nuisances, and robocalling is frequently used by bad actors to perpetrate scams, so many types of robocalls are illegal. However, the number of robocalls continues to increase. The skills required to be a successful telemarketer include the ability to read from a script and speak clearly with a well-modulated voice, making telemarketing sales jobs a ripe opportunity for automation.
With many hospitals already using AI and automated systems to fill prescriptions quickly and efficiently, it won’t be long before pharmacies start doing the same. In the coming years, picking up a prescription will more like buying a soda from a vending machine than taking a number and standing in line. In addition to reducing wait times for patients picking up their prescriptions, replacing pharmacists with AI-enabled robots will reduce human error, increase patient safety, and reduce pharmacy operating expenses.
AI-enabled robots are currently being used around the world to supplement teachers. As AI and speech recognition technologies evolve, many educators believe they will take on a larger role in the classroom and replace teachers altogether. AI-based learning systems and robot teachers have the potential to help solve the systemic issues plaguing America’s education system. The educational knowledge that can be stored in a computer is exponentially greater than the capabilities of the human mind. AI-enabled robotic teachers will be efficient and won’t make mistakes. They will never show bias based on the student’s gender, race, or socioeconomic status. They will be able to identify personal preferences and other considerations to ensure every student gets the individual guidance they need. They will provide individualized teaching to thousands of students at the same time. AI-enabled robots won’t take days off and will never call in sick.
Unfortunately, robot teachers could reduce human interaction in the classroom from the noble profession of teaching students to setting up equipment and maintaining discipline. Additionally, some critics fear that robot teachers might lead children to believe that technology is their master. Other people believe that robots lack the creativity and diverse perspectives to inspire children to learn. However, AI will enable robot teachers to learn what stimulates each student intellectually and present them with challenges that fit their skill level and interests. So, future generations of children may actually look back on robot teachers as the inspiration that helped them realize their full potential.
Advances in technology will undoubtedly render some professions obsolete; however, the chances are good that it won’t affect the overall job market. While some jobs will be eliminated, new types of jobs will emerge to replace them. The Industrial Revolution and post-World War II are great examples of the job market evolving in response to wholesale technological advances. Despite apprehensions about machines taking over our lives, most of us recognize the advantages technology provides. In a perfect world, technology will be used to automate mundane tasks, freeing up humans to pursue more compelling activities.