Will Robots Take Your Job? Which Jobs (and College Majors) Are the Most AI-resistant?
The thing about science is that to people of earlier eras, it seems like science fiction. Whereas in past ages it would have seemed absolutely inconceivable that a computer could beat a human being at a game of chess, that’s now quite a common occurrence. Technological change is progressing so rapidly that artificial intelligence is poised to utterly reshape how human beings live and work in the future–and many leading technology and business figures agree that the future is coming sooner than we think. When choosing a college major, then, it’s absolutely essential that today’s students ask themselves: will my job be safe from automation?
As a CNBC news article notes, if self-made billionaire Mark Cuban “was starting college right now, he’d choose philosophy as his major over accounting.” Why? Cuban maintains that artificial intelligence will be able to automate the vast majority of jobs that require technical and repetitive tasks. He advises students to choose college majors and career paths that put a premium on interpersonal interaction and human creativity and reflection. The article quotes Cuban’s remarks from a SXSW panel:
“Knowing how to critically think and assess them from a global perspective I think is going to be more valuable,” Cuban said, speaking at SXSW in March, “than what we see as exciting careers today which might be programming or CPA or those types of things.”
Interestingly, the college majors that today are often viewed as the most “useless,” such as liberal arts and humanities majors like sociology, philosophy, English, and so on, may be the most valuable and robot-resistant paths. Google executive Jonathan Rosenberg agrees with Cuban’s advice, the CNBC article goes on to mention.
Use This Web Site to Check the Likelihood of AI Taking Your Job
Fortunately, there have been many recent studies about the likelihood of whether or not automation might replace your job. Students can use the aptly-named Will Robots Take My Job web site to look up the relative risk level of their chosen career path.
In 2013, a highly cited study by Oxford University academics called The Future of Employment examined 702 common occupations and found that some jobs – telemarketers, tax preparers and sports referees – are at more risk than others including recreational psychologists, dentists and physicians.
What are some of the most at-risk jobs?
Telemarketers, loan officers, cashiers, paralegals, taxi drivers, and fast-food cooks all face overwhelming odds of automation.
What are some of the safest jobs?
Teachers, mental health and substance abuse workers, occupational therapists, dietitians and nutrionists, physicians and surgeons, members of the clergy.
Interestingly, jobs typically occupied by women tend to be at a lesser risk of automation, according to the Guardian article on the Oxford study:
Automation may also exacerbate gender inequality, Zahidi says. Women don’t make up a large proportion of people who are going into science, technology, engineering and math (Stem) and IT fields, which are likely to be the areas in which jobs will grow. On the other hand, Zahidi notes, there do tend to be more women in care-related professions, such as healthcare and education, which are at a lower risk of automation.
In the long run, women may actually end up faring better from technological change. A recent PricewaterhouseCoopers report found that a higher proportion of male than female jobs are at risk of automation, especially those of men with lower levels of education.
Some Random Jobs from WillRobotsTakeMyJob.com and Their Chances of Automation in the Near Future
Computer programmer - 48% chance of automation
Bartender - 77% chance of automation
Insurance sales agent - 92% chance of automation
Library technician - 99% chance of automation
Electrical engineer - 10% chance of automation
Models - 98% chance of automation
Lawyers - 3.5% chance of automation
Chief executives - 1.5% chance of automation
Reporters and correspondents - 11% chance of automation
Photographers - 2% chance of automation
Check out the Will Robots Take My Job web site for yourself, though. I was glad to see that high school and college-level teachers have a very low chance (.78% and 3.2% respectively) of automation, likely because the skills they teach students are complex and require critical thinking, subjective judgment, and human interaction. Even though it’s possible to learn from reading on your own and from watching videos or interacting with AI, most people seem to prefer being taught by a fellow human being! I was pretty surprised, though, to see that Kindergarten teachers have a 15% chance of having their jobs replaced by automation. Not overwhelming odds, to be sure, but still higher odds than I’d guessed. It started to make sense once I thought about it, however. Basic concepts can much more easily be taught by automation.
Fascinated by This Topic and Want to Explore Further?
For some thought-provoking (albeit difficult) reading on possible challenges humanity might face in a world of superintelligence, I recommend reading Oxford philosopher Nick Bostrom’s Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies as well as MIT professor Max Tegmark’s Life 3.0: Being Human in the Age of Artificial Intelligence.
The Bottom Line
Many, many people, from technology executives to highly-respected academics and scientists, are sure that artificial intelligence will dramatically change the way we live and work. Though it’s impossible to predict the future with 100% accuracy, it’s wise to consider what the future might look like as you enter college. Choose a college major and enter a career path that puts a premium on your humanity! You want to cultivate a wide set of uniquely human skills to prepare you for a century that’s poised to be filled with some pretty spectacular (and possibly unsettling) changes. Good luck!
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