“Jobpocalypse”: How Robots Are Changing the Job Market

January 24, 2018

A robot hand shaking a human hand

Artificial intelligence, or AI, has been dramatized in plenty of science fiction movies. In these films, the robots gain consciousness, realize that humans are their enemy or simply unnecessary, and attempt to destroy them. While it doesn’t seem likely that robots will be attempting to eradicate the human race anytime soon, they’ve begun to present us with some frightening dilemmas.

Robots have officially begun to enter the workforce, and as expected, they are dominating at what they do. They’ve already proven that they are a cheaper alternative to traditional labor, and far more efficient as well. This has a lot of people asking “Will robots take my job?” Robotic technology is only going to get better, and it will soon begin to enter all sorts of job fields and become a tempting option for employers across the world. What do you need to know about this development and how can you prepare yourself for this inevitability?

What Jobs Are at Risk?

For many industries, automated robotics is not a thing of the future, but rather a thing of the present. Plenty of industries have slowly introduced robots into their labor force. This is happening a lot in industries with physical jobs that require predictable and repetitive motions. Warehouses and factories have started to bring this technology in at full force — using robots to move heavy objects quicker and easier than any human could. Fast food restaurants have harnessed the efficiency of robots to not only prepare food but also allow easy ordering through the use of computer kiosk systems.

Automation technology is getting smarter by the day, and prototypes are beginning to enter fields that we might never have expected. Mental jobs like accounting will begin to become overrun with different artificial intelligence robots that can calculate far quicker and better than any human brain could. Virtually any job that involves left-brained and rule-based tasks — ones that involve strategy, mathematics, and data analysis — is in danger of a robotic renaissance.

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What Jobs Aren’t at Risk?

With the rapid rise of robots in the workplace, nobody knows what jobs are completely safe. Not only have robots proven to be reliable for manual jobs, but artificial intelligence has shown that it’s more than competent in high-level thinking jobs. So, what’s left?

The one thing that robots may never have is the human touch. There are some jobs where you simply need a human to succeed. Social work, entertainment, sales, and any job requiring the human essence or creativity may be safe for the time being. Robots most likely won’t be able to form creative thoughts for a long, long time. And it’s hard to imagine that people will feel as comfortable opening up emotionally to a robot like they would to a human. Emotion is not something that can be easily programmed.

What Does This Mean for the Future?

A robot amongst a group of job applicants

Not many people know exactly what the future will look like with robots changing the job market. A lot of it is speculation, and there are a lot of variables that can come into play. All that is known is things are and will continue to change drastically.

The Pros

It’s important to remember that we’ve been here before. Definitely not to this scale, but the idea of technology replacing human jobs is not a new one. Factory workers have been replaced by machines since the late 1800s, the agriculture industry has leaned on machines to increase productivity on a global scale, and many other industries have grown to respect how automation can make their lives easier. Eventually, adaptation is necessary, no matter the field.

Automation also leads to a company saving money. When they save money on labor costs, the consumer benefits with lower prices and a more consistent workflow. With lower prices and consistency, companies will grow, which means that they will hire more human employees for jobs that require critical thinking. So, in an indirect way, automation may actually help human employees.

Over time, automation saves companies money on labor costs, and consumers benefit with lower prices and more consistent products and services. There are always tradeoffs (in terms of flexibility and personal touch), but with lower prices and consistency, companies will grow, which means that they will hire more human employees for jobs that require critical thinking and right-brain skills. So, in an indirect way, automation may actually help human employees.
Automation may also create the need for entirely new industries and lines of work. Humans might be needed, for instance, to repair malfunctioning robots, or act as intermediaries between human employees and robots. We have seen many new jobs spring up in the past 25 years. Undoubtedly, we will see new fields and jobs that we can’t yet imagine — and many will rely on humans.

The Cons

Not everyone will be in a position to thrive as industries and jobs are further disrupted by technology. Those without college degrees are scared of losing their jobs, and those with degrees are looking over their shoulders. People understand that if possible, any employer would use automation rather than an employee. It makes a lot more sense financially, and in the world of business, it’s all about the bottom line.

More and more people are entering creative fields as they perceive those to be safe from the robotic influx. There are other jobs that are currently safe, but nobody knows how long their job security will be guaranteed. There may eventually be a world where the majority of jobs are taken by computers. While this may be in the distant future, many people are already coming up with ideas on how we’ll have to handle this. Tech genius Elon Musk is amongst the first to suggest that a universal income level might be the best option.

What Can You Do?

Leadership will always remain important. No matter who (or what) the employees are, someone needs to be leading them, especially through difficult transitions. Strong leadership skills are something that will always be needed, no matter how advanced technology becomes.

Luckily, at CO2, we’re all about building leaders for the future. If you’re ready to take the next step towards becoming a better leader, contact us today.

By: Gary Cohen

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