Robots Might Take Your Job: Ready to Quit?

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A contribution from Yana Yelina.

Sounds intimidating, doesn’t it? Many professionals see the writing on the wall: day after day, machines are becoming smarter and are replacing human jobs. Among notable examples are vacuum cleaners, farming drones, and construction workers.

The US labor is also drastically changing its landscape. And nearly 30,000 retail jobs lost in March, 2017 is just the beginning. Forrester estimates that the robotic revolution will take 10 million jobs by 2027.

Key takeaways from Oxford’s study

Researchers at Oxford University and Deloitte are among those who have put the future of robots under the spotlight. According to their study, 35% of existing jobs in the UK and 50% of US jobs face the peril of automation in the next two decades.

To understand which professions are susceptible to automation, the scientists drilled down data from the US O*NET employment database and then adapted the findings to the corresponding jobs in the UK based on occupation classifications of the Office for National Statistics.

To enable the system to calculate the exact percentage of risk automation, the researchers have analyzed nine key skills:

  • social perceptiveness
  • negotiation
  • persuasion
  • caring for other people
  • imagination and initiative
  • fine arts
  • finger dexterity
  • manual dexterity
  • the need to work in a confined work space.

The findings have unveiled that social and caring jobs, such as physicians, nurses, psychologists, social workers, and managers have an outside chance of being automated. The roles that require people to think on their feet and be on the ball — such as designers and artists — are also able to fend robots off.

However, walks of life entailing mostly routine activities, for example telephone salespersons, post officers, typists, or related keyboard workers are vulnerable to job automation. Moreover, machines with their sophisticated algorithms are threatening an array of support roles in legal and financial spheres, challenging legal secretaries, bank clerks, book-keepers, and taxation experts.

Here are the results for telephone sales representatives who are prone to surrender in the short run.

Boston Consulting Group’s forecast

Boston Consulting Group’s experts admit robots are getting freakishly good, and their future is set for success. Here is a synopsis of the research.

  1. Adoption will vary by industry and nation. Robots have already started their victory march in such countries as Canada, the USA, Japan, South Korea, and the UK. Chinese and Thai economies are racing to be first in deploying machines given their labor costs. France, Spain, Belgium, and Italy, in turn, don’t give serious thought to such technologies. As the adoption rates differ by country, researchers advise to consider such a critical factor as location before deploying robots.
  2. Leaders in embracing robots will reduce labor costs and improve competitiveness. Researchers predict that the 2025 average manufacturing labor costs will be 33% lower in South Korea and 18–25% lower in China, Germany, and other countries. As a result, companies that are in the vanguard of the robotic revolution are expected to gain a competitive edge.
  3. Economies will face a shift in manufacturing skills. Analysts estimate that robots’ will replace low-cost labor, which will become a key driver of manufacturing competitiveness in the majority of industries. Therefore, workers will need a fundamental shift in manufacturing skills to be able to wrestle with machines.

Robots are among us

In the introduction, we have hinted at a few examples of machines taking human jobs. Here are some other professions ripe for a robotic takeover.

Transport drivers

Self-driving and driverless cars are not the holy grail anymore. Singapore’s nuTonomy has pioneered this innovation, hitting the hi-tech district of the country with robo-taxis. For now, developers are providing trial rides in a Mitsubishi i-MiEv electric vehicle to a finite number of people. If the feedback is positive, the service offer will be extended in 2018.

Experts from the UK have their own say on the future of machines. Their first public autonomous trial in Greenwich is underway. Coming under the umbrella of the wider GATEway project, such shuttles will soon become a new means of public transport. It’s worth mentioning that similar cars have already been touted as great assistants at Heathrow airport.

Uber doesn’t wants to stay on the sidelines, either. Following its mission of reliable transportation, the company offers its self-driving vehicles in San-Francisco and Pittsburgh.

Factory workers

Manufacturing is another sphere robots are taking by storm. Chinese factories claim to have experienced a significant boost of productivity when machines have replaced humans.

Adidas, motivated by cheap machine labor, aims to continue building robot-powered factories. Their goal is to improve the efficiency and speed of the manufacturing process rather than spare human workers their occupations.

Cashiers

With a 90% risk of job automation, cashiers should update their CVs and buckle down to exploring new career opportunities. In particular, automated kiosks are putting an end to fast food as we know it.

McDonald’s, for instance, is opening the door to restaurants of the future with the launch of ‘Create Your Taste’ touch screen kiosks. In a move to cut labor costs and increase sales, fast food giant Wendy’s is also in pilot with smart kiosks.

Robotics and Big Data

The given examples show that robots are advanced enough to oust humans in some fields. But what is being done to further the robotic advent?

Robotics has a long-standing connection with data. Robot inventors implement custom Big Data solutions to analyze huge amounts of unstructured data on human behaviors and translate the results to new capabilities. Thus, robots are becoming more sophisticated in mimicking people and leveraging Big Data to carry out certain tasks.

  1. Drones. These unmanned aircrafts use their built-in cameras, take high-resolution pictures of targets, and transmit the information to Big Data systems for an accurate analysis. The obtained results are then applied to program drones to detect an enemy and perform a relevant action against them.
  2. Surgical assistants. Robots have already convinced everyone of their ability to help humans perform medical operations. In addition to that, experts presume Big Data will soon empower machines to slice and dice health information to offer personalized treatments to patients.
  3. Financial advisors. Apart from performing some simple activities, like engaging customers in financial institutions or assisting bankers, robots may act as business consultants. Big Data systems enable them to conduct a comprehensive analysis of past data and use the results to consider various options and deliver wise investment decisions.

What’s next?

The reality is that the robotic takeover is not something far-fetched, and Big Data analytics is significantly contributing to the robotic revolution.

On the one hand, this advancement is fascinating and inspiring, as it pushes the envelope of human living. On the other hand, it is frightening, as many people will be spared their jobs.

No matter what our attitude towards these changes is, robots are already here and they are here to stay.

Image credit: makeuseof.com

About the Author:

Yana Yelina is a Technology Writer at Oxagile, a provider of software engineering and IT consulting services with a focus on a number of verticals and business domains: OTT and Online Video, Real-time Communication, Big Data and Business Intelligence, EdTEch, AdTech, Finance, and more. You can reach Yana at [email protected] or connect via LinkedIn or Twitter.