It’s probably fair to say that discussions surrounding the rise of robot workers and the subsequent displacement of human workers have mostly been confined to futurology seminars and science-fiction films. Nowadays, however, these kinds of conversations have been moving into the mainstream. Just recently, both the esteemed physicist Stephen Hawking and the global philanthropist Bill Gates publicly asserted that artificial intelligence could be a real threat to humanity.
While Gates’s and Hawking’s pronouncements did not send the world into paranoiac chaos, it is noticeable that no one laughed. This is because most of us have already seen evidence of worker replacement by computer programs and robots, and so most of us have smelled the smoke, even if we have not yet seen the fire. The fact that these two visionaries weren’t derided by the media makes me believe that the mainstream is now ready to enter the debate about the impending workplace revolution.
So, what exactly is going to happen in the workplace? According to this study from the Oxford Martin School at the University of Oxford University, 47 percent of jobs are at risk for computerization, which means human workers will be replaced in whole or in part by computers in some form.
This isn’t fantasy or baseless prediction: this is going to happen. Jobs in the areas of transportation, logistics, and office and administrative support are especially at risk. Most of you will have noticed that in many supermarkets, there are more self-service tills than human cashiers. It’s probably no surprise, then, that the Oxford Martin study shows a 97 percent chance of cashiers being partly or wholly replaced by robots in the next 10-20 years. This career path, along with about 300 others that have over an 80+ percent chance of computerization, are not likely to be around in the next couple of decades. If you continue down these career paths, you may find the future does not need you — or your skill set, that is.
What’s So Bad About There Being No Human Jobs in the Future?
Now, there may be some of you who see the gradual replacement of human workers as an opportunity and not a problem. For many, having robots workers do all the hard work — leaving us to our recreational activity — may be like dying and going to heaven.
On the other hand, plenty of you will want to work in the future. The question then becomes: is there any way you can future-proof yourself and keep your career when the computers come for your jobs?
Yes, there is. You need to be ready to step aside and step up into jobs and roles that humans can still do much better than robots can. Let the machines do the menial jobs while you work on more humanistic professions.
That is the way to future-proof yourself. Start by training and updating your skill sets so you are adept in jobs that computers and robots cannot do. According to the Oxford Martin study, computers will not be able to replicate jobs that require high levels of creative thinking, emotional intelligence, original thought, judgement, and empathy. Robot-proof jobs include positions like therapists, social workers, psychologists, certain medical workers, teachers and instructors, childcare workers, software developers, veterinarians, and lawyers, all of which have less than a 10 percent chance of being computerized in the next 10-20 years.
There were nearly 200 jobs on Oxford Martin’s list that had very low chances of being computerized. These are the career areas that you should start focusing on now to ensure that the future will need you when it comes.