The Rise of the Machines

Posted on April 23, 2019

The Rise of the Machines…

Technology is undoubtedly having an impact upon jobs – with some experts predicting that within 15 years, up to 40% of job roles could be lost to automation. But is all as it seems? Should we be terrified that our income stream could suddenly dry up, has the threat been exaggerated, and is there anything that we can do to future-proof ourselves?
Machinery, computers, automated tech and AI can be seen practically everywhere. Self-scan tills and handheld devices, automated telephone customer service and online chat help-desks, a full gamut of machinery in factories – the list is never ending and ever growing.
We can see the march of the machines on the horizon, but are they coming for your job?
On a basic level, if the post involves a large amount of routine or recurring tasks, it will inevitably be more susceptible. The potential benefits will need to outweigh time and investment spent on development however – remember computers need to learn and be programmed before they can replace, but if the task is repetitive and easily learnt, then it could be considered more at risk.
There will however always be roles which are more resistant. Largely speaking, these are the more creative roles, or those which involve human-type emotions which are difficult to replicate in tech.
Dr. Irving Wladawsky-Berger confirms some tasks “are more susceptible to automation, while others require judgment, social skills and other hard-to-automate human capabilities”.
Empathetic thinking is very difficult to replace and as per futurist and technology advisor Bernard Marr, “we are a long way away from any technology that can genuinely recognize human emotions and respond to them appropriately”, classifying any job that requires empathy “unlikely to be outsourced to technology any time soon”.
Also, consider that another key area of job growth for humans will be the tech area itself. People will be needed to programme and monitor the machines; tech can fail and needs to be fixed; an automated chat will often need to redirect to a human if it can’t find the answer; with cyber comes cyber threats and the need for cyber security consultants and technicians. Perhaps one of the best routes is to become a “techspert”? There’s a lot to be said for keeping your enemies close.

But if technology isn’t for you, other roles which are potentially more resistant to automation include:

  • Sportsmen and women. Football alone is a multi billion pound industry. It wouldn’t be quite the same if replaced by robots
  • Dancers, models, actors, actresses – how much tv is watched in the UK?
  • Comedians – you can find lists of jokes online, but the key is in the delivery. Roles which require rapid reading of human reaction or emotion can not easily be replaced
  • Social workers, psychiatrists, counsellors
  • Artists
  • Writers, bloggers, authors
  • Hairdressers, beauticians, therapists
  • Tradesmen: plumbers, electricians, engineers

Plus, even when it appears tech can substitute, there is often still a place for humans, sometimes simply because some people prefer human interaction and contact. There are those who prefer to be served by a human cashier, be taught by a human as opposed to a computer, exercise to a human instead of to a virtual instructor. Also, generally speaking, tech is usually accompanied or complemented in some form by a person.

Inevitably, businesses will always be looking to streamline and make themselves as cost effective as possible, and people will need to protect their roles.
Adaptation is key. Be agile. The landscape is constantly changing and nobody can predict with all certainty how things will progress – and figures vary significantly. Technology will continue to advance. Developments in one area will spawn hives of activity, but in exactly which direction could depend upon a multitude of factors. It will be virtually impossible to immunise yourself to the threats of automation and AI, but tailor yourself to the gaps in the market – in exactly the same way that a business will need to adapt and change. Those who rest on their laurels will be at greatest risk.