A Closer Look at Automation and the Future of American Jobs

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From Terminator to Wall-E, Hollywood has been showing the desperate future of an automated world. Science Fiction has been predicting for years that computers and robots would reign supreme. Most scenarios detailing a program of some kind designed to save humanity, involve the development of artificial intelligence (AI) coming to a realization that in fact, people are the problem. Some would say that we are on the brink of this development in real life, but rest assured that we aren’t quite there yet. While AI has been evolving in leaps and bounds, there is still a place for people in the world. Even still, this makes plenty of people nervous about their own futures, value, and worth in an ever-growing technological world.

Adapting to Change in a Modern Technological World

Surveys suggest that people have mixed feelings about how robots and computers will affect the future of work. Many look towards the future, thinking that the jobs available to them may not be available. This fear fuels a sense of automation anxiety that exists. This fear stems from watching technology change as swiftly as it has. However, it is easy to forget that humanity has been facing the evolution of technology fears for over 100 years. In fact, looking back historically, people of the 1890s faced many challenges that are unheard of today. The telephone, the invention of motorized vehicles and automation of farm work left many people out of work.

New Work in New Industries

These inventions also created new industries. There was a lot of upheaval and change, but ultimately, it caused required adaptation that left its mark not only on the job scape for many but on how the world interacted, government and much more. History has a habit of repeating itself and what we are likely to see in the future is unimaginable adaptation as we integrate automation into our lives more and more. This will cause people to make room for computers and other technological adaptations to assist them with their work while opening the door for fields of employment that haven’t even been dreamed up yet.

Jobs of Yesteryear

Humans have already felt the pains of technology and the evolution of technology eradicating once popular positions.

Here are just a few jobs that no longer exist thanks to technology:

  • Switchboard operator
  • Toll collector
  • Bowling alley pinsetter

It is actually kind of hard to find jobs that have been completely decimated by technological advancements. Industries such as farming, transportation, and even rocket science have all been drastically affected by the evolution of technology. Yet, there are still jobs that exist in said fields. Typically, what ends up happening is that robots do not fully replace people, they make a dent in how many people are employed.

Working With Tech

There are many industries that have adapted to the use of technology. Farming, for example, was once an industry driven on manpower alone. This required a lot of effort. Integrating machines into daily processes made it easier to get the job done. Simple machines paved the way, but today plenty of farming processes are fully automated.

Milking cows was once a job for milkmaids.

Automation of processes affects jobs that require low levels of human perception. Data entry, research, and information gathering types of work will likely see a huge impact. Those with less risk include lower-skilled jobs such as janitorial work or home health assistance. This is because they still require conversational interaction and completion of tasks that can not easily be replaced by a machine.

Jobs of Tomorrow

Studies suggest that nearly every industry will see changes due to technology. It is hard to say what industries will completely disappear. While some industries become completely automated, others will adapt to make room advancements. This allows for opportunities for work that requires human assistance. However, by reviewing trends that are already taking place, it is possible to estimate which jobs and industries might be most affected by ever-changing technologies.

Some of these industries include:

  • Legal – research and review
  • Healthcare – diagnosis, research and basic processes
  • Journalism – fact-checking, research and providing general information
  • Teaching – online and basic education processes
  • Cooking – food prep
  • Data Entry – data gathering and calculations

Technology… Is it Really the Problem?

Often, when there is a growth in a new industry, there is a loss in another. One of the main concerns is whether there will be enough wealth to support people that need work in order to survive. People that are concerned about computers taking over the job market are actually showing their fear that there will not be enough opportunities remaining to support individuals that need to pay bills, find housing or to purchase food. Consider the fact that MIT reported that there will be a decline in available jobs and that automation will naturally take away from the potential employment opportunities of some. The study does not address the fact that technology boosts wealth potential. It also ignores the fact that the world generates more wealth today than it ever has in the past.

More Automation Means More Wealth

The industries that technology impacts most are also industries that become easier because automation often simplifies processes. Unfortunately, the people with the greatest impact on their careers are not the people that see the wealth generated by automating processes. Modern business practices ensure that the excess profits coming from streamlining industries through technology often goes to shareholders or owners. Perhaps the question shouldn’t be whether robots are going to take all of the available jobs. Instead, perhaps by focusing on how wealth could be more equally shared a solution would be more readily available.

Man vs. Machine

What is the value of a person? Technology simplifies processes but that doesn’t mean that it is in any way equal to the value or worth of a person. Understanding that computers and other technology are tools to aid humanity in their work rather than viewing these advancements as a replacement for people is perhaps part of the problem.

Determining Human Value

Ultimately, it seems that the determining factor is whether or not the job in question is logical or repetitive. Career paths such as insurance claims adjusters and customer service representatives are both great examples of career paths that see an impact from technological advancements. However, there is still a need for a person to be available. After all, who wants to talk to a computer? Phone trees are the bane of most of our existences. There are plenty of jobs that are good for automation. Ultimately, the technology that works alongside workers makes life easier. It doesn’t guarantee a utopia, but if managed well, automation doesn’t have to be a bad thing. The automation of unfulfilling jobs can make things easier for all. The good news is that people can adapt while technology continues to advance and evolve.

The Best of Both Worlds

While many people may worry about where their jobs are going to go, the chances of jobs disappearing overnight are unlikely. For those just entering the employment world and planning careers, it is smart to note the direction of how technology is driving certain industries and careers. But, as Forbes reported in one interesting article, it is likely that everything will be automated to some degree in the future. The key to moving forward is adapting and anticipating trends. For many, this may mean going with the flow. For others, it may mean a career change in its entirety. The good news is that in the foreseeable future, there are plenty of jobs that are going to remain on the horizon.