AI And RPA Will Absolutely, Positively Threaten Your Job

AI And RPA Will Absolutely, Positively Threaten Your Job

By Steve Andriole Contributor Jul 23, 2018, 08:46pm

If that headline fails to get your attention, there’s nothing about artificial intelligence (AI) or robotic process automation (RPA) that will shock or scare you. Will AI and RPA take your job and kill your career? It depends on what you do for a living, how old you are, where you live and your educational credentials.

If you perform routine tasks or even what appear to be complex deductive inferential tasks we associate with “knowledge” industries, yes, your job and career are at significant risk: AI and RPA will absolutely, positively threaten your job, your career and your very professional existence.

It would be naïve and irresponsible for me to say otherwise – just as it was naïve and irresponsible to tell horse breeders and coach manufacturers that automobiles were no threat at all, or minicomputer manufacturers that desktop computers would not threaten their markets – because, you know, “there is no reason for any individual to have a computer in his home.”

Let’s also not believe for a moment that automation and low-level AI – combined with lower global labor costs – have been quiet over the past couple of decades.

Automation (broadly defined) has already redefined or destroyed millions of jobs and whole industries. While new jobs and industries have definitely been created during this time, the transitional pain was huge and will likely increase throughout the rest of the 21stcentury – and forever, as technology continues its relentless march to some version of productivity singularity.   

Risk Quotients

Four questions:  How old are you?  What do you do?  Where do you live?  How much – and what kind of – education do you have? The answers to these questions define your risk profile.

McKinsey & Co. predicts that AI (broadly defined) will eliminate 77,000,000 jobs over the next 20 years: “our scenarios suggest that by 2030, 75 million to 375 million workers (3 to 14 percent of the global workforce) will need to switch occupational categories.”

Bloomberg has developed a tool to help you determine if you’re likely to be automated. According to Bloomberg’s research (based in part on research conducted at the University of Oxford), “nearly half of all U.S. jobs may be at risk in the coming decades, with lower-paid occupations among the most vulnerable.”

Compensation and benefits managers, auditors, accountants, credit analysts, loan officers, sales representatives, truck drivers, administrative services managers and even dental hygienists are at high risk and “most likely to be automated.”

Some good news? The same research suggests that physicians, surgeons, lawyers, financial managers, pharmacists, teachers and computer and information systems managers are among the professions least likely to be automated. Note that the timing for all this varies. Some analysts believe significant professional displacement will occur by 2030, while others believe it will take longer. (It won't take longer.)

Risk Management

What you do, where you live, your age and your level and nature of education will define your risk quotient and your risk management strategy. Ironically, AI and RPA can help you automate your risk quotient and your risk management strategy through a series of simple if/then statements:

If you’re an accountant, live in New York, are 60 years old, hold a bachelor’s degree, then you can coast to retirement without much automation risk …

If you’re a loan officer, live in Los Angeles, are 30 years old, hold a bachelor’s degree, then your risk quotient is high: you will likely be impacted by automation during your career, perhaps severely …

If you’re an elementary school teacher, live in Washington, DC, are 25 years old and hold a bachelor’s degree, then your risk quotient is extremely low (but, according to the data, so is your salary) …

Action Plans

You get the idea. The if/then approach to career risk management (yet another definition of “CRM”) points everyone in the right direction. AI/RPA will threaten jobs at an unprecedented rate. Everyone needs to objectively understand where they fit in the value chain in which they live. We also need to track the pace of technology change which I predict will accelerate rapidly over time, eclipsing all past rates of change. (Moore’s Law on steroids.)

The real challenge is to those early in their careers and those about to launch one. Those new or about-to-enter-the-workforce need to pay very special attention to AI and RPA – and plan accordingly.

If you’re – or planning to be – a telemarketer, loan officer, cashier, paralegal, taxi driver or fast food cook, you’re in deep trouble; but if you’re – or planning to be – a mental health and substance abuse social worker or occupational therapist, you’re relatively safe.

Education is key. But it must be the right kind of education. According to Workopolis, “STEM education (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) is already important today, but in the future, it will be essential as unskilled labor will be hardest hit by automation. However, the prevalence of robots and automated systems will mean an increased need for engineers, technicians, and managers to build, maintain, and quality control the work performed by our mechanized labor force.”  

Yes, emotional intelligence (EQ) “will be increasingly important, especially for any jobs that involve human interaction. Emotions, understanding, empathy – these are things that automation has yet to interpret and deal with appropriately, which means that positions like teachers, doctors, nurses, and therapists are safe. The creative fields should be safe for the same reasons, as automated systems may struggle with expressive creativity in fields like writing, art, design, and music.”

There’s an old TV series – Hill Street Blues – which began each episode with a warning:  “Let’s Be Careful Out There.”  As everyone ponders the impact of AI and RPA on their careers, it’s very good advice.


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