Will a robot take your job?: Automation’s impact will be huge

Technology

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (research.stlouisfed.org)

Automation has already proven to successfully replace human workers in numerous industries. We see it happening all around us and we consistently choose to ignore it.

Yet the implications are massive: How will our free markets function without a working middle class? How will people earn a living? Which jobs will be the first to disappear?

Not if, but when

In time, robots will wipe out one job after another. The population of men between the ages of 25 and 34 who are unemployed is 11.5 percent, with no improvement in sight. In fact, technology is moving so fast that the RATE of development itself is increasing. We are currently facing the calm before the storm. If you believe that your job is unable to be replaced by a robot in the future, think again. Once robots learn to design and program themselves, the markets will be flooded with layoffs and humans will be forced to rethink their career choices.

Which jobs are at the highest risk?

As you can guess, tedious mechanical tasks will be the first to be replaced. Remember all those manufacturing jobs the U.S. outsourced to China? The good news for us is that some of those jobs are coming back to the states; the bad news is that the robots are on the short list for employers, since they don’t require salaries or paid holidays. Robots will cut labor costs in America by 23 percent by 2025, making automation critical in order to compete in a global market.

Next, consider the millions of Americans who drive for a living. The consensus is that some cars will drive themselves by 2017, followed by an alarming growth rate of 134 percent year after year. Uber and Lyft may be in demand for drivers now, but not for long. Your Uber ride in the future will be full of low prices and self-driving cars. For example, Google is a major investor in Uber, along with being a pioneer in the autonomous vehicle industry. The silver lining here is that there will be theoretically fewer accidents, since human error accounts for 90 percent of accidents on the road.

Office jobs, too, are at risk of vanishing. These information-rich jobs won’t go away overnight, however. The robots will need to be trained to take over first, which will require robust business processes and automation-friendly tasks to be defined. Editing spreadsheets will soon be a thing of the past. Even software developers should fear that robots could one day automate their jobs, despite the extremely high demand for software developers in today’s job market. It’s predicted machines will be capable of designing and programming themselves by 2029.

Which jobs will have security in the future?

It is forecast that robots will replace 70 percent of today’s jobs by the end of the century. So which jobs are so complex that robots aren’t capable of undertaking them? Geoff Colvin argues in his Fortune article “Humans are underrated” that a better strategy is to ask, “What are the activities that we humans, driven by our deepest nature or by the realities of daily life, will simply insist be performed by other humans, even if computers could do them?” He offers the example of a judge: Although it’s feasible to think that computers could be capable of providing better, more statistically relevant rulings in court, we can always go back and blame a judge for deciding to allow an undeserving convict to have a second chance. Humans will always need somewhere to point the blame and assume the risk for certain key decisions.

Another skill humans will always excel at is simply being human. Robots may be cheaper and quicker at bartending or serving tables, but they won’t be able to strike up a genuine conversation or laugh at your jokes. Humans like to do business with humans; just listen to any peeved customer on the phone with the seller’s automated call center. For this reason, sales and most customer-facing jobs will likely be given to the humans. Similarly, humans will be preferred for leadership and management positions due to their empathy. Sincere, genuine, human empathy is necessary for these roles and it doesn’t mean as much coming from a machine.

Being more human

Colvin argues, “The meaning of great performance has changed. It used to be that you had to be good at being machine-like. Now, increasingly, you have to be good at being a person. Great performance requires us to be intensely human beings.” If you want to invest in your career by excelling at one thing, strive to become a better human being.

The beauty in all of this is that jobs of the future must ultimately be more human-like and more fulfilling. Creative thinking and relationship building will be the core skills of the next generation workforce.

Civilian Labor Force Participation Rate: 25 to 54 years

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (research.stlouisfed.org)
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (research.stlouisfed.org)

-Jesse DePinto is a Milwaukee-based serial entrepreneur and business technology consultant. His company, Tosa Labs, helps clients design smart products for the Internet of Things. You can connect with him via email at jesse@tosalabs.com, via cell phone at (937) 829-3720, or via social media at LinkedIn.com/in/JesseDePinto or Twitter.com/JesseDePinto

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