A few decades ago, a kid might follow his father into a decent paying manufacturing job in a Ford or Chevy plant, but then many factories were outsourced to cheap-labor Asian countries. Now some production is moving back to the US to save money on transportation costs, but with automation added which means fewer workers are needed.The economy is cooking along right now because the businessman president knows how to make it work, unlike his predecessor. However, one estimate says that the effect of automation will begin to be felt in five years or so.
The main strategy for future employment is to choose a career that is creative and non-repetitive, according to Martin Ford, quoted later in the article posted below, who wrote Rise of the Robots: Technology and the Threat of a Jobless Future — an excellent, eye-opening book.
Many prestigious professions will be greatly effected by smart machines: law, for example will no longer need legal researchers because of advanced software technology. Those attracted to a medical career should forget about specializing in anesthesiology because the machines will have that covered.
Certain blue collar jobs have a bright future though, such as carpenters and plumbers.
The recent New York Times article about the jobless future from the parents’ viewpoint was thorough and sobering:
Parents wonder: Will robots take our children’s jobs?, By Alex Williams (New York Times News Service), Las Vegas Sun, December 18, 2017Here’s more information about the McKinsey report mentioned in the last paragraph above: Study: Robots could soon replace nearly a third of the U.S. workforce.
When it comes to kids and careers, what’s a parent to do when the robots are coming for all the jobs, anyway?
Like a lot of children, my sons, Toby, 7, and Anton, 4, are obsessed with robots. In the children’s books they devour at bedtime, happy, helpful robots pop up more often than even dragons or dinosaurs. The other day I asked Toby why children like robots so much.
“Because they work for you,” he said.
What I didn’t have the heart to tell him is, someday he might work for them — or, I fear, might not work at all, because of them.
It is not just Elon Musk, Bill Gates and Stephen Hawking who are freaking out about the rise of invincible machines. Yes, robots have the potential to outsmart us and destroy the human race. But first, artificial intelligence could make countless professions obsolete by the time my sons reach their 20s.
You do not exactly need to be Marty McFly to see the obvious threats to our children’s future careers.
Say you dream of sending your daughter off to Yale School of Medicine to become a radiologist. And why not? Radiologists in New York typically earn about $470,000, according to Salary.com.
But that job is suddenly looking iffy as AI gets better at reading scans. A startup called Arterys, to cite just one example, already has a program that can perform an MRI analysis of blood flow through a heart in just 15 seconds, compared with the 45 minutes required by humans.
Maybe she wants to be a surgeon, but that job may not be safe, either. Robots already assist surgeons in removing damaged organs and cancerous tissue, according to Scientific American. Last year, a prototype robotic surgeon called STAR (Smart Tissue Autonomous Robot) outperformed human surgeons in a test in which both had to repair the severed intestine of a live pig.
So perhaps your daughter detours to law school to become a rainmaking corporate lawyer. Skies are cloudy in that profession, too. Any legal job that involves lots of mundane document review (and that’s a lot of what lawyers do) is vulnerable.
Software programs are already being used by companies including JPMorgan Chase & Co. to scan legal papers and predict what documents are relevant, saving lots of billable hours. Kira Systems, for example, has reportedly cut the time that some lawyers need to review contracts by 20 to 60 percent.
As a matter of professional survival, I would like to assure my children that journalism is immune, but that is clearly a delusion. The Associated Press already has used a software program from a company called Automated Insights to churn out passable copy covering Wall Street earnings and some college sports, and last year awarded the bots the minor league baseball beat.
What about other glamour jobs, like airline pilot? Well, last spring, a robotic co-pilot developed by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, known as DARPA, flew and landed a simulated 737. I hardly count that as surprising, given that pilots of commercial Boeing 777s, according to one 2015 survey, only spend seven minutes during an average flight actually flying the thing. As we move into the era of driverless cars, can pilotless planes be far behind?
Then there is Wall Street, where robots are already doing their best to shove Gordon Gekko out of his corner office. Big banks are using software programs that can suggest bets, construct hedges and act as robo-economists, using natural language processing to parse central bank commentary to predict monetary policy, according to Bloomberg. BlackRock, the biggest fund company in the world, made waves earlier this year when it announced it was replacing some highly paid human stock pickers with computer algorithms.
So am I paranoid? Or not paranoid enough? A much-quoted 2013 study by the University of Oxford Department of Engineering Science — surely the most sober of institutions — estimated that 47 percent of current jobs, including insurance underwriter, sports referee and loan officer, are at risk of falling victim to automation, perhaps within a decade or two.
Just this week, the McKinsey Global Institute released a report that found that a third of American workers may have to switch jobs in the next dozen or so years because of AI.