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What Jobs will Robots and AI Do in The Future?

If you work in finance these days, things are probably not as exciting as they used to be. Gone are the days of snorting cocaine in strip clubs at 4:00AM on a Tuesday morning. Nowadays you’re more likely to have a late night trying to figure out that elusive bug that’s keeping your trade automation program from going live. The one thing that will never change in finance though is the effect that breaking news has on the stock market. Any time new macro economic information is made available, the entire market reacts as a result. One often cited statistic is data on national employment. What most people might not know is that the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics compiles and distributes a massive data set that is no doubt already plugged into AI algorithms to provide signals to trade on. These job numbers have likely been around for a while, except now AI is looking at them. AI is also taking many of these jobs.

What Jobs will Robots and AI Do in The Future?

With all the layers of granularity that exist within these numbers, we thought it would be fun to see who is being “freed up to do more value added activities” which is the nice way of telling someone that some 2 headcounts in an “emerging market center” or EMC took their job. With the Fourth Industrial Revolution right around the corner, somewhere around 80% of jobs are expected to be impacted which led to our article on “9 of the Best Jobs for the Future That Pay Well“. Now we want to see which jobs are already being eroded. We took the employment numbers for 2016 and compared these to 2011 to see what changes have come about in the past 5 years. We then looked at all jobs with more than 90,000 workers presently that suffered the biggest % loss. Here’s what we came up with:

2016 2011 %Loss
File clerks 183 334 -82.51%
Database administrators 90 134 -48.89%
Computer, automated teller, and office machine repairers 212 305 -43.87%
Bill and account collectors 152 211 -38.82%
Computer operators 91 126 -38.46%
Drafters 109 147 -34.86%
Electrical, electronics, and electromechanical assemblers 117 156 -33.33%
Counter and rental clerks 105 139 -32.38%
Public relations specialists 121 158 -30.58%
Payroll and timekeeping clerks 129 168 -30.23%
Miscellaneous legal support workers 168 209 -24.40%
Butchers and other meat, poultry, and fish processing workers 277 342 -23.47%

Incredibly, every single one of these occupations can be seen as affected by robots and AI either now or in the near future – except one which we couldn’t figure out.

File Clerks – 151,000 jobs lost

If you’re a file clerk, your job is to work with both paper documents and electronic files to do routine tasks like retrieving information, data entry, scanning, and copying. No doubt “John in Mumbai” absorbed a fair amount of these jobs but technologies like natural language processing (a subset of artificial intelligence) is making these jobs all but useless. We’ve written before about a startup called Captricity that extracts and transforms data from handwritten and typed forms at 99.9+ percent accuracy.

Database administrators (DBAs) – 44,000 jobs lost

This one is easy enough to blame on jobs being outsourced to Mumbai given that the median yearly salary for a U.S. based DBA in 2015 was $81,719 a year. A little digging shows that the real reason may be that the technology is starting to get much easier to deal with. Companies like Imanis Data talk about how the DBA role is changing as databases become smarter about performing their own backups and maintenance freeing up the DBA to “move on to more value added activities”.  Database operations are “being reduced to a point-and-click effort” as “new database technologies have become much more automated“.

Computer, automated teller, and office machine repairers – 93,000 jobs lost

That “IT guy” who used to come by your desk and see why your mouse is behaving funny has now been replaced by John in Mumbai who uses remote access to painfully stumble through your problem like a lost turtle while you try not to rip his fcuking head off. The next step is make computers fix themselves. If AI is now being used to code itself, it sure as hell can be trained how to figure out “why my Outlook is slow”.

Bill and account collectors – 59,000 jobs lost

This job doesn’t take more than a high school diploma and involves chasing people who aren’t paying their bills. Bill collectors are tenacious and vicious, two qualities that it’s hard to imagine AI having. However, the reason these jobs may decrease is that the number of non-performing loans is going to be dropping like rock. We wrote before about “the new credit score” that’s going to weed out all the deadbeats until there are far fewer people to chase.

Computer Operators – 35,000 jobs lost

WTF is a “computer operator”? At some point, the Bureau that provides this data needs to update their categories into the 21st century. Anyways, to oversimplify things, these are data entry people that make an average of $42,140 per year. That’s like 2.5 Johns in Mumbai. Data entry jobs? Buh-bye.

Drafters – 38,000 jobs lost

These are people that use software to convert the designs of engineers and architects into technical drawings. Construction is rapidly entering the modern age with virtual reality being used to visualize completed projects or to allow those designers to better convey their designs. The carpenter pencil is being replaced with an app, and it’s pretty easy to see how with a median yearly salary of $52,720 a year, the drafter’s days are numbered if AI has anything to say about it.

Electrical, electronics, and electromechanical assemblers – 39,000 jobs lost

Your job is to assemble electronics? Seriously? Did you not get the memo about how our future robotic overlords will self-replicate instead of needing a bumbling human assembler with a bad hangover making mistakes? You need to read all our articles on industrial robotics and then go invest in some industrial robot stocks to supplement your income when a robot inevitably shows you the door.

Counter and rental clerks – 34,000 jobs lost

Maybe it’s just our overworked minds, but the term “rental clerk” sounds a bit seedy. The actual job description at the BLS describes people who deal with rental stuff like cars, apartments, and consumer goods. You can’t send these jobs to John in Mumbai and AI is no way mature enough to “check in a rental return”. Maybe these guys are being overworked so hard doing such a kick-ass job that fewer of them are needed? Or maybe it’s because Americans stopped renting entirely and now they just buy everything on credit? Feel free to pitch your own theory in the comments section below.

Public relations specialists 37,000 jobs lost

Few things make us happier than seeing that there are now 37,000 fewer people to harass us about giving their client coverage for free. The only problem is that there are still 121,000 of them left. PR people who are reading this – we’ve told you before that we need to come up with a better value proposition or you’re going to be “freed up to do more value added activities” because the value you are adding in the age of “new media” just isn’t that apparent.

Payroll and timekeeping clerks – 39,000 jobs lost

Speaking of public relations people, we discussed before about PR people approaching us with clients who were working with “robotic process automation” or RPA which we thought sounded suspiciously similar to software automation with the word “robotic” added to give it some pizzazz. The truth though is that RPA is now using machine learning to do more advanced tasks. If AI is now able to figure out all the nuances of accounting, payroll and timekeeping are just as feasible.

Miscellaneous legal support workers – 41,000 jobs lost

This is one we’ve already covered, in fact we gave you 10 examples of startups that are going to clean up on the sorts of tasks that these “miscellaneous legal support” workers are doing.

Butchers and other meat, poultry, and fish processing workers – 65,000 jobs lost

This wasn’t ringing any bells until we did a quick Google search and found an eye-opening article by Business Week that talks about how the world’s biggest meat packing plant, JBS, is investing in robots now that can cycle through 600 lamb carcasses an hour. Yes, robotic butchers are now a thing. JBS made an investment of $41 million into a New Zealand company called Scott Technology that specializes in robotics. (UPDATE – Be sure to check out our article on “Robot Butchers – Because Humans Aren’t Cutting It.”)

Conclusions

So there you have it. The answer to the question “what jobs will robots and AI do in the future” is nearly all of them. We’re all going to be “freed up to do more value added activities” and the notion of entry level jobs will be a thing of the past. Not sure if we should laugh or cry about that, but it’s happening and we’ll help you figure out how to invest in these themes. Speaking of investing in robotics, if you bought Mobileye back when we first wrote about it, you’re pretty happy today. We sure are.

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  • It is astonishing just how many jobs are being replaced at such a fast pace! File clerks is a big one as I’ve noticed in several doctors’ offices recently. They simply aren’t needed because all files are electronic now. It’s a whole new world!

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