Automation is coming!

In the coming decades, sophisticated robots, computer programs and other forms of automated technology will eliminate many jobs in many fields, and will  transform the jobs that remain. In 2013, the Oxford University research group made a very sobering prediction: by 2033, up to 47 percent of current jobs could be eliminated from the US economy. The reason? In a word, automation – the process by which jobs are performed, well, automatically, without the need for human resource, thanks to robots, software or other forms of technology. According to the study, jobs as wide-ranging as sports refereeing, telemarketing, bank loan supervising, insurance underwriting, retail sales and even catering have a 95 percent or greater chance of obsolescence. The list goes on and on, touching nearly every industry.

In the 1960s, we saw the rise of industrial robots – automated factory machines that manufacture products without human assistance. But six decades later, the robots haven’t taken over yet. There are still millions of people working in factories.

Impact on Delivery companies:

Imagine it’s the near future. You’re a corporation with vast industrial robots rendering out your products around the clock, eliminating most of your manufacturing resource costs in the process. But you still have one pesky little problem: getting those products into the hands of your customers. Well, that’s where the robots come in again. The transportation industry is about to be revolutionized by autonomous vehicles. You’ve probably heard about the self-driving cars being test driven on the highways of California – but autonomous trucks are also in the works, with lots of money being poured into their development. Otto is one of the companies leading the way, and it was recently bought by Uber for $700 million.

Delivery drivers are also under threat. Domino’s Pizza is already trialing self- driving food delivery cars, and package delivery drones are being developed by Amazon, FedEx, UPS and DHL. Oh, and speaking of drones, there are automated flying taxis already being built by the Chinese company Ehang, and several of them already in limited operation in Dubai. The future of automated transportation is coming fast, and it’s being driven by rapidly advancing technology. For example, the sensors in self-driving cars are getting increasingly sophisticated, enabling them to be responsive to unexpected events, like a dog running across a foggy road at night. As a result, from 2015 to 2016, the rate at which human engineers needed to override autonomous vehicles on test drives fell from 0.5 percent to 0.2 percent.

Impact of physical grocery stores:

Unless you’ve been living off-grid for the past decade, you’ve probably made a number of purchases from online retailers, such as Amazon. Of course, millions of other people have been doing the same thing. As a result, brick-and-mortar stores have been dropping like flies. In the United States, just in the first few months of 2017, Radio Shack closed 552 stores; JCPenney, 138; Macy’s, 68 – and the list goes on and on.

Impact on the way you order food:

Meanwhile, automation is rapidly taking hold of the other main branch of the service sector: the restaurant industry. Touchscreen like ordering tablets are already replacing counter staff and waiters at restaurants like McDonald’s and Pizza Hut. Meanwhile, back in the kitchen, food preparation robots have already debuted at the Zume Pizza chain, which has cut its labor costs in half.

Impact on Lawyers:

Consider the legal profession. Many of the tasks currently performed by lawyers, paralegals and legal secretaries are pretty formulaic. Whether they’re preparing real estate contracts, rental agreements or wills, these tasks usually involve taking a legal document, slightly adapting it to the needs of the client and filling in the blanks with the correct information. With the help of algorithmic software, online legal platforms like RocketLawyer, LegalZoom and LawDepot can do this work automatically by just asking clients a few simple questions. More sophisticated tasks are also beginning to be automated. In 2016, BakerHostetler, one of the largest law firms in the United States, “hired” a robotic lawyer named Ross. Powered by IBM’s Watson supercomputer, Ross can sift through thousands of legal documents in hundreds of databases and make independent decisions about which ones would be most useful winning a particular case. As a result of automation, 31,000 law-related jobs have been lost in the United Kingdom alone, and another 114,000 will probably disappear in the next two decades. Meanwhile, in the United States, two out of three lawyers could either lose their jobs or see them radically changed in the next 15 years. For example, instead of writing legal documents themselves, human lawyers will just be proofreading and editing documents written by robots like Ross.

Impact on the way you do banking:

Nowadays, when you need to do your banking, it’s possible to go for years without ever having to visit a physical branch of your bank. You can update your information and carry out transfers online, and you can deposit and withdraw money from an ATM. Now, remember the meaning of the acronym ATM: Automated Teller Machine. The tasks that are performed by an ATM used to be the exclusive job of human tellers. Those tellers still exist, of course, but in lower numbers today than in yesteryear, thanks to ATMs. In other words, automation has already been present in the commercial banking industry for quite some time, and it’s going to continue gaining steam in the years ahead. To understand why, it’s helpful to recall the reasons that banks exist in the first place.

Impact on the way you take medicines:

Have you ever felt sick and Googled your symptoms? Then, like millions of people, you’ve already experienced one of the ways in which automation will transform the future of healthcare. Before online search engines and virtual assistants like Alexa, you probably would have seen your doctor about your symptoms. Now you can find information about their causes and remedies by simply typing a few words into your search bar or saying, “hey, Alexa, how do I perform CPR?” Alexa will already give you precise instructions on how to do things like that, and in the coming years, virtual assistants will become even more sophisticated – capable of answering just about any question you’d ask your family doctor. Meanwhile, we’ll be able to continuously monitor, analyze and improve our health with a variety of sensors and apps built into our rings and clothing, along with microchips implanted in our skin. All of these technologies have already been developed to one degree or another. You can monitor your heart rate with a Fitbit, use app to diagnose whether a suspicious skin spot is cancerous or not and even wear a posture-improving device that will give you a little electric shock every time you slouch. These are just a taste of things to come. In the near future, as these technologies evolve and proliferate, we’ll be able to track automatically nearly every aspect of our health and self-diagnose nearly every common ailment. And for diagnosing more serious diseases, many hospitals are already using supercomputers like IBM’s Watson.

Summary

As a general rule of thumb, the more routine a job is, the more likely it is to be automated. In other words, the more your job involves doing repetitive actions, the more likely a robot or a computer is to start doing it for you in the coming years. That’s why many lower-end jobs are going to be eliminated; a machine can flip burgers just as well as a human. But the same holds true for many -end jobs.

Over the next few decades, automation will likely replace many current workers in manufacturing, transportation, banking, law and the service sector. Along the way, it will create some new jobs that will center around supporting the robots and other automated systems that replaced those workers. Automation will also eliminate some positions and job functions in medicine, journalism and education, but it will also allow workers in those fields to do more interesting work. Finally, automation will expand people’s free time, which will increase the demand for artists and entertainers.

Hitesh Uppal

Head Finance at Magicbricks

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