It’s inevitable: Robots are becoming a bigger part of our lives as they become more advanced, which means some of us will soon be out of work.
A 300-page report released by Merrill Lynch predicts 47% of jobs are at risk for replacement in the next 20 years, with positions in the manufacturing and services industries being at the greatest risk.
But the report also highlights that there’s one important skill that robots could never really master: creative thinking.
“As machines begin to eliminate the most menial tasks, people are left with more time to deploy creative abilities, blurring the line between mind and the machine,” the report reads. “A major question is whether this will empower humans to go further than before, or if people will just be pushed out.”
Ian Pearson, a fellow at the World Academy for Arts and Science and author, said that humans’ ability to think creatively, among other specifically human skills, will protect a certain subset of jobs. Here are three jobs that could never be replaced by humans, according to Pearson.
Teachers are irreplaceable because robots could never relate or understand kids.
“You can’t really say, ‘because you have Google you don’t need a teacher anymore because you can find everything you want on Google’ — that teacher could be replaced notionally by a robot, but the robot couldn’t really quite understand where the kid is coming from because they don’t share the same human experience,” Pearson explained.
“A human will always be able to identify with another human on an emotional level better than a robot can.”
Even though defence jobs are becoming increasingly reliant on robots (think drones in the military), Pearson doesn’t foresee robots replacing cops in the future.
Pearson said that human judgment will always be a necessary skill in the police force, and that’s not something that can be programmed.
“Most of us don’t want Robocop,” he explained. “We’d much rather have a policeman make a human judgment on something rather than [a robot] just taking on a database where they sense such and such a crime and begin shooting it,” Pearson said.
People who work in management, especially jobs that entail personnel or motivational leadership, have security.
“That’s a human job — I can’t really imagine people following R2D2 as their prime motivator,” he said.
Pearson’s main point was that as robots make certain jobs easier, especially those having to do with finding information or data, humans will have more time to focus and work on things robots can’t possibly master on their own.
“You spend more time with colleagues, more time in meetings, more time in emotional analysis and trying to sway people,” he said. “All of these other human skills become more important as the information skills become less important.”
And if you don’t have these jobs…
…Don’t fret just yet. It’s uncertain if many jobs, including in the manufacturing industry, will be replaced by intelligent machines.
The Merrill Lynch report notes that “countries like South Korea and Germany, which have the highest and third highest robot density in the world respectively, have experienced less of a manufacturing employment decline versus a less automated peer such as the U.S.”
That means even if research shows jobs at risk for automation, that doesn’t necessarily mean robots will displace humans from jobs in those industries.
Additionally, the Merrill Lynch report notes that even as robots replace jobs, another 3.5 million will be created because of robots.
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