Are You Developing Skills That Won’t Be Automated?
Develop Skills That Won’t Be Automated (Image by Gerd Altmann)

The jobs replaced by technology probably won’t ever come back, at least not in any major way. Given the huge momentum behind AI and robotics development, we should assume that many, if not most, jobs will be affected, even if they aren’t eliminated. Although we can’t know for sure what the future holds, it’s smart to prepare as if the technology will impact your job.

It’s worth exploring some of the best careers for the future. They’ll help you start imagining new directions you can go in. There’s no harm in taking an active interest in some of the amazing possibilities that could become reality. By staying aware of leading-edge trends, you stand a better chance of not being caught off guard by major changes. For example, start taking an interest in other exciting technologies of the future, such as:

  • 3D printing – The 3D printing process builds a three-dimensional object from a computer-aided design (CAD) model, usually by successively adding material layer by layer, which is why it is also called additive manufacturing, unlike conventional machining, casting and forging processes, where material is removed from a stock item (subtractive manufacturing) or poured into a mold and shaped by means of dies, presses and hammers.
  • Blockchain technology – A blockchain technology is a growing list of records, called blocks, that are linked using cryptography. Each block contains a cryptographic hash of the previous block, a timestamp, and transaction data (generally represented as a Merkle tree).
  • The Internet of things (IoT) – The Internet of Things (IoT) is a system of interrelated computing devices, mechanical and digital machines, objects, animals or people that are provided with unique identifiers (UIDs) and the ability to transfer data over a network without requiring human-to-human or human-to-computer interaction.
  • Virtual reality (VR)Virtual reality (VR) is a simulated experience that can be similar to or completely different from the real world. Applications of virtual reality can include entertainment (i.e. gaming) and educational purposes (i.e. medical or military training). Other, distinct types of VR style technology include augmented reality and mixed reality.
  • Brain implants – Brain implants, often referred to as neural implants, are technological devices that connect directly to a biological subject’s brain – usually placed on the surface of the brain, or attached to the brain’s cortex. A common purpose of modern brain implants and the focus of much current research is establishing a biomedical prosthesis circumventing areas in the brain that have become dysfunctional after a stroke or other head injuries.
  • Augmented reality (AR)Augmented reality (AR) is an interactive experience of a real-world environment where the objects that reside in the real world are enhanced by computer-generated perceptual information, sometimes across multiple sensory modalities, including visual, auditory, haptic, somatosensory and olfactory.
  • Quantum computingQuantum computing is the study of a still-hypothetical model of computation. Whereas traditional models of computing such as the Turing machine or Lambda calculus rely on “classical” representations of computational memory, a quantum computation could transform the memory into a quantum superposition of possible classical states. A quantum computer is a device that could perform such computation.
  • Genomics – Genomics is an interdisciplinary field of biology focusing on the structure, function, evolution, mapping, and editing of genomes. A genome is an organism’s complete set of DNA, including all of its genes. In contrast to genetics, which refers to the study of individual genes and their roles in inheritance, genomics aims at the collective characterization and quantification of all of an organism’s genes, their interrelations and influence on the organism.
  • Nanotechnology – Nanotechnology (“nanotech”) is manipulation of matter on an atomic, molecular, and supramolecular scale.
  • Drones – Drones are an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV). Which in essence are an aircraft without a human pilot on board and a type of unmanned vehicle. UAVs are a component of an unmanned aircraft system; which include a UAV, a ground-based controller, and a system of communications between the two.

Of course, when it comes specifically to robots and AI, it’s a good idea to learn as much as you can about how the partnerships between humans and machines may develop. Pay special attention to the developments in your current industry or the one you want to enter. Start thinking about the tasks you do each day that could become automated. But also think about how using robots or artificial intelligence might make your job easier in the future or free you up to focus on the most important aspects of what you do.

As part of your preparation, you may want to take some classes in robotics or computer science. The better you understand the technology, the easier it will be for you to identify the areas where you can leverage your human talents in a way that machines can’t easily match. Also, get involved with clubs, groups, or associations that are actively engaged in this brave new frontier of advanced robotics and AI.

Jobs That May Be Replaced by Robots First

It’s been estimated that fewer than one in ten jobs can be fully automated (as of 2017). So we’re still a long way from any of the potential scenarios described above. Nevertheless, the robots are already here, and they’re only getting more capable. It’s causing many of us to wonder: Will robots take over our jobs?

Again, it’s hard to make accurate predictions. What might seem like surefire jobs that will be replaced by robots may ultimately remain human-only jobs or become robot-assisted jobs instead. Social acceptance will probably play a big role. It may become socially unacceptable to have robots in some kinds of jobs, even if they’re capable of performing them. That said, certain employment sectors may offer better potential for automation than others over the next decade or two. For example, the following sectors are believed to offer the greatest potential for the automation of job tasks:

  • Accommodation and food services
  • Manufacturing
  • Warehousing
  • Transportation
  • Agriculture
  • Retail
  • Mining

Of course, not all jobs within the sectors above have equal risk of being automated. Education and skill level makes a big difference, at least during the early stages of this potential robot revolution. In fact, in 2016, it was estimated that about 44 percent of workers in America without a high school diploma had jobs consisting of tasks that could be easily automated. In contrast, only six to eight percent of workers with an associate degree or trade school certificate had jobs consisting of very automatable tasks. And only one percent of workers with at least a bachelor’s degree had such jobs.

The risk of automation is also correlated with how much a job pays. For example, more than 80 percent of jobs that pay under $20 per hour may be vulnerable to automation in the relatively near future. In comparison, only about 30 percent of jobs paying $20 to $40 per hour are considered vulnerable. And only four percent of jobs paying more than $40 per hour are estimated to be vulnerable.

Most of those estimates are based on the capabilities of current automation technologies. But a lot can change in a short amount of time. So it may not just be low-paying jobs that are at risk. Many good middle-class jobs could also be at risk relatively soon if the pace of robotics and AI development picks up. In any case, here are just a few examples of occupations that machines might increasingly take over in the near future:

  • Fast-food cooks
  • Hotel bellhops
  • Reception clerks
  • Assemblers
  • Machine operators
  • Forklift operators
  • Material handlers
  • Truck drivers
  • Taxi drivers
  • Delivery drivers
  • Postal workers
  • Aircraft pilots
  • Cargo ship captains
  • Farm workers
  • Groundskeepers
  • Miners
  • Cashiers
  • Retail shelf stockers
  • Bookkeepers
  • Accounting clerks
  • Commodities salespeople
  • Legal assistants
  • Pharmacists

Jobs That May Be Safe From Robots
When it comes to jobs that can’t be replaced by technology, we have to consider our distinctive human traits. What makes us different from machines? Obviously, as robotics and artificial intelligence advance, the line between man and machine will begin to blur. So we should probably focus on the human qualities that machines will have the most difficulty replicating.

Currently, machines are best at recognizing patterns, doing calculations, and performing predictable tasks—all without ever getting bored. But thanks to deep learning, some machines are also now able to learn and adapt to unpredictable situations. However, most robots and artificially intelligent machines are still pretty weak in a number of areas where a lot of us excel. For the foreseeable future, humans should remain better than machines when it comes to jobs requiring traits like:

  • Empathy
  • Creativity
  • Intuition
  • Sociability
  • Manual dexterity
  • Common sense

It’s also likely that jobs related to developing or supervising robots and intelligent machines will remain at low risk of being automated for a long time to come. In quite a few cases, the jobs that remain will involve working with robotic and/or artificially intelligent assistants. So the occupations won’t disappear, but they will be changed. With all of those things in mind, here’s a list of example occupations (along with their median yearly wages) that could potentially be safe until at least the early 2030s:

  • Physician—$206,920
  • Psychiatrist—$194,740
  • Software developer—$100,080 (applications); $106,860 (systems)
  • Information security analyst—$92,600
  • Personal financial planner—$90,530
  • Construction manager—$89,300
  • Veterinarian—$88,770
  • Robotics engineer—$80,881
  • Computer programmer—$79,840
  • Sociologist—$79,750
  • Technical or scientific products sales representative—$78,980
  • Architect—$76,9307
  • Genetic counselor—$74,120
  • Dental hygienist—$72,910
  • Project manager—$71,611
  • Music producer—$70,950
  • Urban or regional planner—$70,020
  • Registered nurse—$68,450
  • Web developer—$66,130
  • Digital media artist—$65,300
  • Fashion designer—$65,170
  • Ethics officer—$64,354
  • Film or video editor—$62,760
  • Makeup artist—$60,970
  • Aircraft mechanic—$60,170
  • Arbitrator or mediator—$59,770
  • Quality control supervisor—$59,667
  • Video game designer—$59,250
  • Physical therapist assistant—$56,610
  • Elementary school teacher—$55,800
  • Electrician—$52,720
  • Plumber—$51,450
  • Restaurant manager—$50,820
  • Family therapist—$49,170
  • Data curator—$48,513
  • Private detective—$48,190
  • Graphic designer—$47,640
  • Sommelier—$46,602
  • Child or family social worker—$43,250
  • Chef—$43,180
  • Addictions counselor—$41,070
  • Massage therapist—$39,860
  • Auto mechanic—$38,470
  • Fitness trainer—$38,160
  • Early childhood educator—$36,640
  • Coach—$31,460
  • Esthetician—$30,270
  • Patient care technician—$29,659
  • Hair stylist—$24,260

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