“Software substitution, whether it’s for drivers or waiters or nurses…it’s progressing...Technology over time will reduce demand for jobs, particularly at the lower end of skill set… 20 years from now, labor demand for lots of skill sets will be substantially lower. I don’t think people have that in their mental model.” - Bill Gates
Microsoft founder Bill Gates' recent prediction that nearly half of American's current jobs will be replaced by robots has many scared, and justifiably so. While this technological breakthrough is exciting news, the majority of the workforce faces an uncertain future.
With no current solution as to how humans phased out of their jobs will survive many are left wondering if their job will be next to go. Over the years robots have replaced some jobs, mostly in factories and on their assembly lines. If the prediction is true, then half of the workforce may soon see their services deemed obsolete like the Dell you purchased for college a few years ago.
Americans have faced outsourcing woes for years already. However, an insourcing to competition they have never faced could significantly shape the landscape of the workforce. While this outlook could be bleak for many, economists and tech experts have predicted that at least three groups of human works will benefit. In the last fifteen years, owners have seen a return of their revenue with this practice coming more into execution.
This probably does not soothe many of your woes. The next to see benefits will be the inventors that create new goods and services that will benefit the public. With robotic assistance, these inventions can be created at a lesser cost and at higher efficiency.
Yet, for most, the last to benefit are the most important: the skilled workers. While this may seem like a slight to the “less skilled”, it actually applies to the jobs that a robot probably can't replace for a while, or at all. This does not mean that because you have a job that requires a college degree you are safe. Let's take a look at just a few of these human jobs that may be first to face replacement.
Of the many jobs to fall, telemarketing is one that can already be cited for their diminishing human workforce. Over the past few years many of you have continued to receive the phone calls you almost never want to hear. Of those phone calls, how many have been human? As TIME points out, even the voices that sounds human may not be. While this is not a good sign for the telemarketers of the U.S and the world, can companies be blamed for this shift?
Humans are not fans of these calls, and the innocent humans doing their job usually face the brunt of the anger while trying to make a living. This often results in dissatisfied employees and customers. With a robotic telemarketer, the call will be placed with pitch perfect tone and friendliness, no matter the frustration coming from the other line.
The only drawback to this may be the frustrated recipient of the call messing with the system by asking questions the telemarketer isn't programmed to answer. Still, given that most users will likely have similar problems to each other, it seems to only be a matter of when this change officially happens.
4 Cargo/Material Moving
Another job facing absolute certainty of replacement to computerized workers will be the moving industry. While taking the grueling task of heavy moving from humans is beneficial to their bodies, it is still a job being taken away.
This sector of the workforce has seen machinery taking their jobs for virtually as long as moving has been in demand. No one complained when heavy lifting was replaced with forklifts and other machinery. Yet, will the silence extend to when robots are doing your home or office moving? That remains to be seen.
3 Ground Transportation
Self-driving cars have already entered the U.S. With Google's driverless car, Google Chauffeur, being road tested in 2012, Americans saw their own driving becoming a potential thing of the past. If this initiative expands beyond Google and our personal vehicles expansion with buses, taxis and other similar forms of ground transportation are sure to follow. This will eliminate the need for many drivers and conductors. As with every job loss, the unfortunate news is that people will lose the jobs they have worked hard at for many years. Yet, the advancement of a humanless driving system could see a huge potential.
By combining maps of the world with their own laser radar system, these cars know exactly where to go. The possibility of error remains as with all technology. Yet the removal of human error and factors such as drunk driving could vastly outweigh the job losses. With Google's vehicles having $150,000 worth of equipment in each vehicle, this may take some time.
2 Air Transportation
With technological advances in air travel already well-established, a significant amount of air travel is already done by computers. While this is true, let's remember the human aspect of piloting is still quite integral to the success of every flight. In many cases these advancements in technology have allowed for almost the entire flight to be a virtually hands off experience for the pilots. However, could a computer or robot pull off the incredibly challenging emergency landing in the Hudson River that Captain Chesley Sullenberger performed? While possible, it has not been seen to date.
With many pilots (depending on which airline employs them) being subjects of heavy hours and minimal pay, this change may be welcome. While the dream of flying is still alive in the hearts of these workers, it may be time to hand the reigns off to a computer.
Pardon the pun, but taxing data entry positions could be one of the more surprising positions to be facing a computerized future sooner than later. With smart algorithms, accountants, underwriters, and other similar positions face an almost 100% certainty of this future.
Human error from a heavy workloads and tight deadlines can result in frustrating audits and the wrong outcome for several individuals and companies. Humans will still be needed to put the correct information to make the algorithms work to their desired outcome. However, the days of staring across a desk hoping to hear the good word on your tax return might soon sound a bit more robotic in the coming years.