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SKYNET is coming…for your job!

January 24, 2014
Hi, May I help you?

Hi, May I help you?

by Jeff Pinkerton

We are all familiar with workplace automation. We have seen the huge robotic arms moving and welding car parts on production lines like those at Fairfax and Claycomo. But the robots aren’t stopping at our manufacturing plants. They may soon be taking our places (or at least some of our places) in a wide variety of occupations.

A couple of researchers from Oxford determined the likelihood of 702 unique occupations being essentially eliminated by computerization over the next 10 to 20 years. By their count, about 47 percent of U.S. jobs are at risk.

So, what jobs are most likely to be automated out of existence? Here are the top 10.

  • Telemarketers
  • Title Examiners, Abstractors and Searchers
  • Sewers, Hand
  • Mathematical Technicians
  • Insurance Underwriters
  • Watch Repairers
  • Cargo and Freight Agents
  • Tax Preparers
  • Photographic Process Workers and Processing Machine Operators
  • New Accounts Clerks

Each of these jobs stands a 99-percent likelihood of being automated in the next two decades.

On the robot-safe side of the list, the 10 jobs that are least likely to be automated are:

  • Recreational Therapists
  • First-Line Supervisors of Mechanics, Installers and Repairers
  • Emergency Management Directors
  • Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers
  • Audiologists
  • Occupational Therapists
  • Orthotists and Prosthetists
  • Healthcare Social Workers
  • Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons
  • First-Line Supervisors of Fire Fighting and Prevention Workers

The complete list can be seen in the report, but basically jobs that are repetitive and labor intensive are prime candidates for automation. Jobs that require human creativity (like teaching) or split-second analysis and decision making (like surgery) are pretty safe from automation.

Some other notable occupations and their percent of likelihood for automation include:

  • Elementary School Teacher, 0.44 percent
  • Pharmacist, 1.2 percent
  • Lawyer, 3.5 percent
  • Air Traffic Controller, 11 percent
  • Private Detective and Investigator, 31 percent
  • Computer Programmer, 48 percent
  • Machinist, 65 percent
  • Carpenter, 72 percent
  • Fast Food Cook, 81 percent
  • Retail Salesperson, 92 percent

Now, obviously our need for these skills will not entirely go away, but technology may make it so we will need fewer workers to do the job. Manufacturing is a good example of this. As a nation, manufacturing output is near all-time highs, but manufacturing employment is declining. We are doing more with less labor, due in part to technology and automation.

For real job security, pick a career that requires you to be creative and analytical.

See you next time, hopefully — there is a 43 percent chance that my economist job will soon be taken over by a robot.

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