The next industrial revolution is well underway. Many see it as the 4th revolution:
The First Industrial Revolution (after 1780) was the shift from our reliance on animals, human effort and biomass as primary sources of energy to the use of fossil fuels and mechanical power.
The Second Industrial Revolution (from 1870) brought major breakthroughs in the form of electricity distribution, both wireless and wired communication, new forms of power generation and chemical knowledge.
The Third Industrial Revolution (starting 1950) with the development of digital systems, communication and rapid advances in computing power, which have enabled new ways of generating, processing and sharing information.
The Fourth Industrial Revolution can be described as the invention of “cyber-integrated systems” bringing entirely new capabilities for people and machines. The main difference between the Third Industrial Revolution (on which technology the 4th is based) and the Fourth Industrial Revolution is that is takes an entirely new direction in ways technology is embedded within the workplace, society and even the human body: genome editing, machine intelligence (AI), breakthrough materials and approaches to governance that rely on cryptographic methods like blockchain.
All Industrial Revolutions had in common that they were followed by increased unemployment of unskilled labour, but in time translated into better living conditions and wealth.
Systems and technologies are becoming cheaper and more efficient, replacing human positions. In manufacturing, for instance, 25% of jobs are projected to be replaced by robotic workers, while Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is projected to do away with a large number of manual back-office functions in the years ahead.
An Oxford University study estimates that 35% of all jobs may be automated by 2035. The logistics industry will be particularly hard hit, as it stands to lose up to half of its low skilled workers due to the increasing cost-effectiveness of robotic workers.
Gartner predicts that in 2020, AI will begin to create more jobs that it makes defunct. Gartner’s Svetlana Sicular wrote “Many significant innovations in the past have been associated with a transition period of temporary job loss, followed by recovery, then business transformation – and AI is likely to follow this route.”
Gartner envisions that AI will complement many roles, and that one in five workers engaged in mostly non-routine tasks will rely on AI to do their job. “AI has already been applied to highly repeatable tasks where large quantities of observations and decisions can be analysed for patterns,” Sicular said.
“However, applying AI to less-routine work that is more varied due to lower repeatability will soon start yielding superior benefits. AI applied to non-routine work is more likely to assist humans than replace them as combinations of humans and machines will perform more effectively than either human experts or AI-driven machines working alone will.”
Augmenting, strengthening, changing, replacing: evidently these words may, in our chosen subject, lay very close to another. As long as the monetary system of greed and fear exist, people will be working to work cheaper and cheaper, and with the target to get to the highest service grade. People work (and think) 40 hours a week. Computers can do work 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, without getting sick and without extended vacation. This is a “no contest”, so I will continue to speak of “replace”.
A question I have also not been able to answer: will the IQ requirement to learn the necessary skills to work after this Fourth Revolution be higher? If so, inevitably a percentage of people will lose their jobs, and not be able to find another.
To understand which type of work will be replaced first, one must understand the types of tasks:
- Manual repetitive (predictable)
- Manual non-repetitive (not predictable)
- Cognitive repetitive (predictable)
- Cognitive non-repetitive (not predictable)
It is obvious that repetitive tasks will be easier to replace: assembly line work is already (depending on complexity and cost) being done by robots and automates. While psychologists perform mostly cognitive non-repetitive tasks which are much harder to automate.
On the other hand: in my estimation there are no “safe jobs”. Some industries will be hit soon, and hard (transport?) while others are less likely to be hit for social reasons: can you imagine pre-school teachers being replaced and thus robots and computers are teaching our children to be social humans?
But for the sake of this article, and the discussion that follows, here my personal top 5 of jobs of first to be replaced by AI/robotics, and the 5 jobs last to be replaced:
Most likely to be replaced first:
1 – Drivers (any type: taxi, truck, airplane), couriers and messengers.
In a recent survey, pilots reported that they spend only minutes of their time manually piloting their plane. We have already seen youtube movies where people (admitted: jokingly) take their pillow into their Tesla’s so they can sleep behind the wheel. Google’s self-driving car is already on the road for years. The reason we still need drivers is a political one: governments could not absorb this many unemployed people all at once. But we will gradually see a shift: drivers will become stewards, stewards will become stationary and will be replaced by online access to information of the load.
2 – Middle Management (insurance appraisers, secretaries)
Pushing around numbers, putting them in Excel sheets and other applications, making estimations based on set inputs. People in these positions have already seen lots of changes to their jobs over the last couple of years, and are usually the first cuts in take-overs. Most of this work is already automated.
3 – Commodity Salespeople (Office Supplies, Real estate brokers, host and hostesses in shops, etc.)
The simple stuff: specifications, price and availability can already be handled by computers. Selling dreams, offering bribes: well,in those cases computers are less handy to use. Request for proposal, quotation, order and fulfillment system: EDI is doing those as we speak. Picking up the phone: Siri and Alexa are already doing quite well in answering questions, and every next version is better than the previous one.
4 – Report Writers and Announcers
Machines can read data, match patterns, analyze images or video, and process research materials and write readable reports. Text-to-speech systems are evolving so quickly and sound so realistic: no more need for life people to read things out loud.
Planning to write novels? Start now, as I have already seen prototypes of programs that writers use to suggest new turns in half-written documents. I am wondering when these programs decide they no longer need a writer..
5 – Accountants
Data processing is not simple, and the advent of the Third Industrial Revolution has opened up possibilities for governments to make guidelines more stringent and fine-lined. However, machines can handle numbers a lot better than humans.
6 – Doctors
IBM has been heavily investing in Watson and medical data. Doctors are using this AI to help spot cancer and define treatments for patient specific situations. Other companies are spending millions in surgical robots to do all kinds of operations. These robo-docs might not be socially wishful, but our demographics will explode, and so needs the number of doctors if they are to follow, which will be practically impossible. And having the choice between a robo-doc and no doc at all…
Most likely to be replaced last
1 – Teachers, mental health professionals
And I am not talking about the ones teaching math or history: website like the Khan Academy are already doing a good job of explaining events and facts. Obviously, they do this based on human made programs, but as I wrote earlier: computers are excellent at making report and can easily add examples.
No, I am talking about teachers who make children social. If we want our kids to grow up human, we better train them with humans.
Obviously the same goes for grown-ups and their psychiatrist.
2 – Professional athletes, sports people
Would Formula 1 be more interesting if the cars where raced by a robot? Would soccer be, if everybody had the same Messi or Ronaldo robot?
It would be fun to see a robot shoot 18 hole in one’s, but that would rapidly lose its attraction.
Sports is about the finding the limits of humans. It is an inspiration for human health, and I do not see that role could be taken by anything else.
3 – Politicians
People wishes are largely socially driven: a world that is filled intricacies and subtleties. Machines do not need politics; they don’t have a finite live and have no need to outcompete another. Machines do not “live”, therefore it wouldn’t be wise to teach the political game to a computer.. On top, politicians are also in a unique position to legislate their own job security.
4 – AI/Robot Specialist
Well this role ought to be replaced the last😉 Naturally robots will become better robot builders than humans. Ray Kurzweil, one of the best-known AI experts, predicts that computers will be smarter than humans by 2045. When that moment arrives, I hope computer AI/Robot Specialists still have enough grip to convince computers that human life is still serves a purpose.
Well, those “good ol’ days” are over. We should better get used to the idea, and prepare for our future. In that future we need to define how the machine/human partnership should work. I am hoping this will prove “heaven”. It is sure though that things will never be the same again.
This article was written with multiple inputs: shellypalmer.com, futurism.com, computerweekly.com, Wikipedia.com. All deserve your visit.