There has been a lot of talk about how robots are taking our jobs, and rightly so. Automation, both in the form of mechanized robots and artificially intelligent software, are expected to replace about 6% of jobs in the U.S. over the next five years.
The vocations most at risk are non-personal jobs that have clearly defined processes. This includes highly skilled positions like lawyers, accountants and doctors that require large amounts of information, but who perform similar tasks on a day-to-day basis. Even creative jobs have aspects of them that are clearly defined and repetitive, lending aspects of them to be automated. This means that a single writer, for example, may be able to complete the work that today requires a small team or writers and researchers.
The biggest danger with AI is that once you teach an artificially intelligent device to perform a single task, a one second software update makes every other similar device able to perform that task just as well. For example, once a single device is taught how to recognize weeds from tomato plants better than a human, and to only pick the weeds, every person who weeds tomato plants can be replaced by a cheaper, more efficient robot. This goes for construction workers, doctors and teachers as well.
In jobs where most of the work is done using computers, such as translators, a simple software update my be all that is required, removing even the need to purchase new hardware to sit in your old desk. But, the future is not all grim, especially if you are prepared for it.
If you are just starting out, having a general education in a technology-related field is one of the best ways to future-proof your career. If you are already on a career path, there are still options to do specific things, so you will be ready when you inevitably get your “pink chip”.
Here, then, are the top 5 jobs that AI will replace, and what you can do to protect yourself:
When will AI start replacing service farmhands?
– Already started.
When will AI outperform all human farmhands?
The technology: Few industries have been more affected by automation over the last century than agriculture. Yet, even after robots take over the world, humans will still be hungry. There are no advances in technology in the foreseeable future that will remove the need for people to eat, although where they get that food is changing rapidly.
Food production still relies heavily on manual labor to perform a range of low-skill, repetitive tasks. Many farmers in Germany have already been replaced by non-humanoid, artificially intelligent robots that can do everything from milk cows to pick lettuce.
What to do: Taking a course on the operation and maintenance of existing robotic machinery is a great first step. In the foreseeable future, humans will still be managing intelligent farm machinery. Make an effort to understand how your particular farm works, the financial reasons behind each task you are given. Think about what tasks you are performing that artificially intelligent robots could perform and then think about how you would manage your new “workers”.
Ironically enough, by looking for ways to replace yourself and manage these new workers, you are more likely to be the one tasked to do just that.
When will AI start replacing teachers?
When will AI outperform all human teachers?
The technology: Many children as young as 3years old today are able to turn on their parents phone, load their favorite game and play it. The gamification of education is also ramping up. AI is getting closer to being able to assess individual ability and provide custom tutoring for each child.
While a teacher may still be present in classrooms for younger children, students will likely be given less-and-less human direction as they age, instead working with automated tutors and AI mentors to motivate and guide them.
Institutions that offer automated tutors (not just online courses) over the Internet will be able to provide a higher quality education at a fraction of the cost. Since the analytical abilities of an automated tutor would provide unrivaled insight into a student’s knowledge base and ability, standardized testing would become obsolete and cheating on tests would be a thing of the past.
What to do: Even with automated tutors it the classroom, students will still rely on teachers and mentors at early ages, so AI is unlikely to affect early childhood educators anytime soon.
For teachers of older students, curriculum development to create individual courses may actually become a growing segment. If your school offers training in curriculum development and distance learning, getting in early could mean the difference between developing a new course on statistics and becoming one.
3) Taxi and Delivery Drivers
When will AI start replacing taxi drivers?
When will AI outperform all human taxi drivers?
The technology: When AI collides with driverless cars, it will be hard to survive if you are the one behind the wheel. If you drive a car for a living, be prepared to find yourself on the curb in the next 10 years.
Drivers for companies like Uber and Lyft, will see their rides dry up overnight as rideshare companies lose the drivers in their fleets. Autonomous vehicles are the perfect example of a technology that already outperforms humans and is just waiting for the legislation to hit the roads. Uber is currently running a small fleet of autonomous cars in Singapore with very positive results.
Autonomous transport trucks pose almost identical problems to their smaller counterparts, and have just as much pull from the logistics industry to lower costs and improve efficiency.
Virtually every major auto manufacturer has already rolled out cars that are capable of self driving. This means that once the legislation is sorted out, it is just a matter of flipping a switch at the factory to make new cars fully autonomous.
What to do: The bright side for transport drivers is that, at first at least, trucks will be hybrid – human drivers will park and load the vehicles, then the truck will drive itself between cities.
Taxi drivers may not be so lucky. Other than high-end, luxury services, like limo services, most ride‑offering companies are likely to move to driverless vehicles fast. The best thing to do is use that sweet-Uber money today to retool for another occupation.
4) Retail service people
When will AI start replacing retail service people?
– Already started.
When will AI outperform all human retail service people?
The technology: Access to the Internet and e-commerce is changing the way we make purchasing decisions. Many stores are moving away from sales staff to answer product questions, and toward lowering salary overhead to reduce prices. Informed consumers don’t need hand holding throughout the sales process and self-checkouts are becoming popular in every retail segment.
Automated ordering kiosks at McDonald’s restaurants have already taken a bite out of fast food jobs, and kitchen jobs are the next on the grill. It may not be long before one or two employees are all that are needed to server up thousands of burgers per hour.
Casual diners like Chili’s already have tableside ordering tablets, so customers will find even a rudimentary chatty digital waitress a step up in personal service, not down.
What to do: It’s hard to share good news with anyone hoping to make a living as a waitress. Luckily, most people in this this profession look at it as a stepping stone to get their acting career off the ground, just make sure you make the leap quickly. If you intend to make a career out of table surfing, be sure to get the training needed to move into higher-class establishments that allow you to bring home the bacon, without relying on tips.
When will AI start replacing surgeons?
– Already started.
When will AI outperform all human surgeons?
The technology: To become a surgeon is one of the most difficult career paths in the world, requiring nearly a decade of study and on-the-job training. They must be able to perform precise, life-saving procedures in extremely stressful situations, work long hours without getting tired or emotional, and constantly monitor dozens of factors to do with the patient simultaneously. Fortunately, these are all things that AI surgeons at Guy’s and St. Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust have started doing already. While they are decades away from taking over an operating room, their surgical robots are already operating side-by-side with human doctors to perform kidney surgeries.
It will be some time before human doctors stop scrubbing up completely, but the list of roles that AI is taking over is growing quickly. With the cost of salaries being the major costs to hospitals today, there is no shortage of research investment to find ways to drive down healthcare costs, while increasing patient outcomes.
What to do: The role of the doctor as the primary health provider inside the operating room or outside is not going away anytime soon. AI-based tools that are being developed today are designed to assist doctors to perform diagnostics, design effective treatment plans, evaluate their success, and stay current on the latest research.
If you are concerned about keeping your job, focus on specialties outside of major treatment plans. AI is likely to be used to tackle mainstream healthcare needs first, such as managing care for and performing procedures on patients with diabetes or heart disease. By focusing on niche markets, specialists can stay ahead of the AI doctors nipping at their heels.
It can seem like soon every job will be taken over by AI, and that may be the case. We can clearly see the jobs that will dry up in the coming years and decades, what we can’t see yet is the jobs that AI will create. 10 years ago, no one thought you could make a living making home videos of your children playing with toys – but YouTube has made that possible.
We cannot yet imagine the possibilities for tomorrow’s jobs, but the best way to protect yourself is to focus on jobs that either require a high degree of emotional intelligence or that will directly serve your new robot masters.
The visual arts, public performances, dancing, and creative writing will all be places that humans turn to when they want to connect with other humans. Even when robots can outperform the fastest and strongest humans, we will still cheer at the Olympics and clamor to fill seats at live concert halls.
These art forms represent the height of human achievement, and even long after AI can best human performance in every way, we will still celebrate the effort that we “bags of mostly water” make to share the music within our souls, give life to our imaginations, or be in the presence of those we love. Maybe someday that is all we will do – and no one will ever do that better.