The Robots Are Coming. Is Your Job Safe?
As the fields of robotics, machine learning and artificial intelligence become more sophisticated, the separation between 'human' jobs and 'robotic' ones continues to disintegrate.
Tasks previously reserved for humans are being automated, a trend that is gaining steam. A 2013 report by Oxford researchers projected that by 2033, 47 percent of jobs in the U.S. could be performed by machines.
So is your job safe?
If you work in a creative field, the answer is probably yes. That's according to a new report, called Creativity vs. Robots, co-written by Oxford researchers and Nesta, a London-based non-profit research and innovation group. By evaluating 702 professions in the U.S. for their required degree of creativity, the report estimates the likelihood that each position will be overtaken by robots in the near future.
In a reversal of current economic realities, fine artists – actors, painters, dancers and musicians – can breathe the easiest. Along with other creative types, a group that includes graphic designers, architects, marketing directors, advertising managers, civil engineers and computer game programmers, their jobs, which the study identified as "highly creative," will be among the last to be replaced machines.
Interestingly, when it comes to monetary gain, the study found an inverse U-shape relationship between the probability that an occupation is highly creative and the average income it delivers. Unsurprisingly, fine artists (your actors, painters, dancers and the like) reside on one side of the curve, making very little, on average, a year, while creative professions associated with the arrival of new technologies bring in high annual salaries.
Other professions the report predicts will continue to be executed by flesh and blood humans well into the future include:
- Translators and interpretors (5.8 percent risk of compurization within the next 10 to 20 years)
- Performing artists (7 percent)
- Architects (7.1 percent)
- Film and TV producers (8 percent)
- R&D on natural sciences (10.9 percent)
- Manufacture of watches and clocks (5.5 percent)
- General secondary education (9.6 percent)
Unfortunately, most of the current jobs in the U.S. aren't so safe; only 21 percent U.S. employment is classified as "highly creative," which leaves a large swath of the working population vulnerable to replacement by robot.
Many at risk positions are predicable – such as office administrators, call-center operators, loggers and super market cashiers -- but the category also includes jobs that, on the surface at least, appear reasonably safe.
With a 67.5 percent risk of computerization, it's likely that bartending will soon be a profession of the past. On one hand, this makes sense: Multiple companies are betting big on the imminent popularity of cocktail robots (we've written about Somabar, a cocktail maker for the home, and similar, more upscale devices are being installed in restaurants across the country). But on the other hand, the estimation feels off: Going to a bar is a primarily social experience – is the appeal as great if you replace a chatty bartender with a machine?
Apparently so. Here's a list of other, potentially surprising occupations that are in danger of automation. (Advances in mobile robotics, data mining and computational statistics mean that "jobs that are considered creative today may not be so tomorrow," the report warns.)
- Publication of directs and mailing lists (69.4 percent)
- News agency activities (64.5 percent)
- Risk and damage evaluation (58.6 percent)
- Event catering activities (52.7 percent)
- Sale of motor vehicles (45.7 percent)