We all know the economy’s been taking a few gut-punches in recent years, and stories about “job creation” have become a staple in the news. Complicating the generally crap availability of worthwhile employment opportunities, a flood of advances in artificial intelligence and cheap robotics technology have provoked some rather scary conversations lately about the possibility of almost all routinized labor being replaced within the next 20 to 30 years by computerized and automated workers. Which jobs and careers are robots poised to take from us mere mortals in the not so distant future?
This scenario obviously has its pros and cons, but what we all want to know most urgently is, of course, “Will my own job be replaced by a robot some day soon?” Good question. Which jobs are most likely to be taken over by robots? Which jobs are the most secure from robot infiltration? Will service robots eventually, creepily outnumber actual human citizens?
Scroll down to discover the answers to these questions and cast your votes for the jobs you think will disappear thanks to advances in technology. (I, for one, welcome our new robot overlords.)
All those agonizing hours in high school
spent memorizing the weird layout of your computer keyboard so you could type 70+ words per minute and support yourself through a drab existence of trying to get your novel published? It may soon turn out to be all for naught. With the growing proficiency of text recognition software and automated intelligence, companies paying people to do manual data entry may soon become a thing of the past.
Telephone operators are already a practically extinct species
(who do you seriously know under the age of 50 who even has a landline anymore?) Obviously, the calls you make on your cell phone still need to be routed someplace, but this sort of thing is thankfully no longer accomplished by women in giant earphones manually connecting circuits by sticking phone plugs into things.
This might actually backfire, since it’s way less satisfying for potential customers to scream angrily at an automated recording that’s trying to sell them a magazine subscription than it is to scream at an actual human.
Anybody who was forced to read Fast Food Nation
in college knows these jobs are already designed to be done by untrained, interchangeable workers. Plus, robots don’t cut out early on their shift, insult annoying customers, or complain about the black ooze that’s been dripping out of the shake machine for three weeks.
Like cashiers and clerks, bank tellers provide few services that can’t be performed more efficiently by computers. Now instead of waiting in line for hours to hand a check to a person in a little vest with a fake smile on their face, you’ll be waiting the same amount of time for the elderly, confused, and passive-aggressively slow bank patrons in front of you to figure out how to
use a touchscreen.
Many places like grocery stores already have auto-checkout kiosks, and this trend will likely continue, leaving customers with an increasingly harrowing vulnerability to getting accidentally screwed out of red-sticker prices or receiving incorrect change.
It’s already faster and cheaper to use Orbitz or Travelocity to plan your own vacation than to pay an enormous surcharge to a third party. Besides, they just spend twenty or thirty minutes making phone calls and essentially doing the same things you would do!
A staple of collegiate employment may be phased out by specialized bots in the near future, as Domino’s has already put a Domino Robotic Unit (DRU) into service in Australia. Constructed by Marathon Robotics, DRU can navigate and avoid obstacles, keeping pizza hot and beverages cold right until they arrive at your door. Domino’s insists that the delivery droid isn’t just a publicity stunt
, but is instead the future of Italian flatbread delivery.
Everybody you know probably uses the H&R Block website for this already, unless they’re the type of person who has a private chauffeur and a winter home in Malibu. (In that case, they pay a third party to use the H&R Block website for them.) Recent research suggests virtually zero living, functional humans actually understand how taxes work anyway, so automated tax services seem like kind of a no-brainer.
It’s sad to imagine there may no longer be any nerdishly awkward, sweet old ladies to help you find your way around a library anymore in the coming years, but budgeting difficulties are already making it hard for many cities to fully staff their libraries. Most libraries these days rely more and more heavily on automated touchscreen kiosks and other digital replacements, and let’s be honest, with the advent of personal computers and the Internet, physical libraries just don’t have the communal importance they once did. A few libraries have even been going fully digital and don’t stock physical copies of books anymore at all. (Seriously
In addition to the hoopla over Google Glass, Google has been test driving automated cars. DUIs and annoying, overhyped car services like Uber will surely soon be a thing of the past.
Armed robots and intelligent drones are already being utilized more and more heavily in ground combat, and although those technologies are expensive, they’re also way more efficient than human soldiers. Plus, attacking enemies with robots is a pretty great intimidation tactic – we’ve all seen those terrifying YouTube videos
of the creepy military robot dog things
, and those are just for supplies transport.
Brokerage clerks are basically people who help you comparison shop when you’re trying to get a loan for something, like starting a new business or buying a home. Like doing your taxes, this is something a lot of people have already started farming out to automated services, since it’s about a thousand times easier and faster to search a website with preloaded options than to pay an actual human being to spend time and money reaching out to various lenders and jumping through hoops to get the best interest rate.
The whole reason people hate working in the service sector is because it requires you to perform the same tasks over and over again while acting happier than you feel and pretending to give a crap about the needs of customers who treat you like garbage. Fortunately, it may soon be possible to replace these jobs with robots who are automatically programmed not to care about how people treat them, rather than going through the process of slow, creeping soul-death the average service worker experiences.
As novel and refreshing as the voice of an actual human over the phone may be, it’s hard to deny the duties of most receptionists would be far more efficiently performed by a Protocol Droid. They can speak over six million languages!
Space exploration is inherently dangerous, as illustrated by 99.9% of movies (historical and otherwise) that have ever been made about space travel, to say nothing of the headache-inducing complexity of sending human explorers on eons-long missions requiring several proposed generations of unquestioning commitment from an entire genetic lineage. Fortunately, robotic space explorers are without personal obligation of any kind, and are cheap enough for even NASA to eventually afford.
Claims processors are people who assess insurance claims and decide whether the person who submitted them to the insurance company deserves money or not. Despite all your pleading and canoodling with the insurance agent, these decisions are typically based on pretty straightforward, even tedious interpretations of the policy, which is why you’re always getting screwed out of your payoff thanks to some tiny loophole that benefits the company. Computers can do this much more effectively than humans, who are often swayed by things like “compassion” and “fear of Karmic retribution.”
Sort of like a claims processor, a insurance appraiser decides whether a vehicle, home, expensive object, or human being is important and valuable enough to deserve insurance coverage. This sometimes requires slightly more finesse than determining whether specific procedures or compensation should be made available to an existing client, but really not by much.
The type of insurance appraisers who go on Antiques Roadshow might still be around for a few years (at least until the robotic SuperRace takes over and replaces all of our intellectual authority figures with computerized drones) but other types of insurance appraisal are likely to become heavily automated in coming years.
The UCSF Medical Center has already invented a robot pharmacist that’s been doing a great job at two different UCSF hospitals of measuring and dispensing people’s medications. Plus, a robot can’t sneer and judge you when it’s handing you your Valtrex prescription .Referee
Referees and umpires are already among the least popular professionals in the entire universe, plus people are constantly whining about their judgment calls being incorrect. Robots would be far more equipped to do this accurately and would look much cuter in those stripey shirts they wear. That way, everybody can finally shut up about how the umpire “didn’t see” the play accurately.
Sex would seem like one arena where the human touch is necessary, but there’s already
a $7,000 “sex robot” ($75,000 for custom designs) and some experts predict that robophilia
will be the norm within 50 years. It was only a matter of time before robots started taking over history’s oldest profession, and hey, there’s a certain logic to actual objects taking over the role of objectified people, right?
Certain Japanese retailers have already premiered “babysitter” robots in charge of entertaining children while their parents go shopping, which sounds like a scandalously better time than most kids in America have ever had waiting for their parents to finish buying groceries. The emergence of full-time robot nannies is really just the next logical step. (Think of the sitcom potential!)