Robot Revolution: What Jobs are at Risk?

Technology is changing the workplace. The most basic artificial intelligence systems have taken over a few jobs, and more advanced systems are being developed. Human jobs are certainly at risk — but not every job can be replaced.


1. Clerical Jobs

Documentation and administrative jobs may soon be whittled to bare minimums. Computer programs are more efficient in keeping records, handling payrolls, and most administrative processes in an office. A single program, such as ServiceNow’s HR system, can easily replace a team of workers. An office with fewer personnel has a lower overhead — particularly in office space, power consumption, and wages.

AI programs can manage almost every aspect of office administration, from recruiting and background checks to dismissing unproductive workers. AI programs judge solely on merit-based systems, maximizing office efficiency without discriminating on race, gender, or other factors.

2. Transaction Services

The shift towards digital transactions is putting regular cashier jobs at risk. More and more people are opting to buy non-essential items through the internet. Online transactions accounted for 22 percent of all transactions in 2020, amounting to $4.3 trillion in sales. Big corporations and businesses are opting for online shops instead of adding additional branches. Aside from setting up shop, e-commerce platforms can manage financial transactions, inventories, and shipping.

In banking, the usual tellers have been replaced by ATMs. Most banks retain a handful of tellers to manage new clients and complex transactions — however, the most common transactions (withdrawals) are usually done with machines. Even fast-food restaurants are experimenting with cashless self-ordering kiosks instead of the usual counter attendant.

3. Phone Operators and Telemarketers


Phone and switchboard operators have been largely replaced by automated systems. These automated systems can handle hundreds of calls per minute — performing simple tasks like providing basic information, redirecting calls, and taking messages. A single system can take the place of hundreds of phone operators while doing the job more efficiently. Addressing a caller is easy for most systems, but certain programs can even make outgoing calls.

Telemarketing jobs are usually outsourced to other countries (because nobody wants them) — however, the disparity in accent, diction, and grammar can sometimes be jarring. Robocalls previously had the same problem, but recent advances have made them sound more human. Most companies use automated systems for follow-ups once a potential client shows interest by making a prior inquiry.


1. High-Risk Jobs Involving People

Jobs that involve other people’s lives won’t be managed by robots for a long time. Trucking is often mentioned when it comes to automation — however, no company will put the lives of motorists and pedestrians in the hands of AI. Even the developers behind trucking automation insist that human drivers will be a necessity — the same way commercial airline pilots are needed despite a plane’s autopilot. Roads and highways have more obstacles and hazards- than clear skies, making automation in trucking more difficult than automating planes.

The same goes for taxi and bus drivers. Streets are dangerous as it is and automated vehicles will only be safe if all vehicles are automated. High-risk jobs that don’t involve other people like bomb disposal or working in contaminated environments can be considered at risk — however, any job that puts the lives of people in the line are safe.

2. Creative Jobs

Robots are great for technical and repetitive tasks, but not artistic ones. Technology won’t be replacing writers, painters, musicians, actors, and other artists and creatives. AI technology might enhance certain features in film, music, and other media — however, totally replacing the creative process is not something a computer can do.

AI programs can manage backgrounds and special effects in film, but they cannot replicate the delicate nuances of acting the same way trained actors can. There are attempts to create programs that gather information and string it up as news, but journalism has little to do with creativity.

3. Social Jobs

The jobs that interact with other people shouldn’t be at risk of being replaced. Nurses, caregivers, doctors, and almost anyone in the medical profession should be secure in their jobs. Luxurious establishments won’t be replacing their receptionists with automated information screens. Teaching requires both knowledge and empathy and teaching in-person has better results than putting kids in front of computer screens.

Jobs in sales and marketing also require empathy as well as insights into the human mind. Although there are a few programs that can predict human behavior (to a certain extent), they can’t replace human insights when it comes to determining emotions and motivation.

There is no escaping automation. Unskilled routine-centered jobs may become a thing of the past — however, some jobs will never be replaced by robots and AI.