You Will Most Probably be Jobless by 2030

Driving through the McDonald’s drive-thru, my monkey brain was thinking of ways to reduce the time and increase the efficiency of the entire ordering system starting from the kitchen to the delivery window (tbh I was hungry, and the line was too slow). This is not the only place that can benefit from automation. In fact, this is one of the places where automation is long overdue.

Now, what does that mean for the workers making ten bucks per hour delivering your order? It means more unemployment for the low-level workers when the machines will take over the mundane, repetitive tasks for a fraction of the wage.

Jobs are moving to higher skill areas

What actually happening is that jobs are moving from low skill areas to high skill areas. Instead of the delivery guy or cashier at McDonald’s Drive-Thru, now the engineers & technicians in the automation company are getting paid for making those robotic systems.

This is not something new. In fact, this has been going on since the dawn of industrialization and the invention of the assembly line.

So, why should we worry now?

The question is valid. If this has been going on for more than 100 years, why should we worry now? Because this time, it’s different.

When industrialization started, physical tasks performed by humans (& other animals) were replaced by machines. Machines were faster, better, and reliable and hence the cost of doing the job dropped. Machines replaced physical labor but, humans were still needed to build, operate & repair these machines. The human mind was irreplaceable. Then came the AI & Machine learning. This is where the game changed.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning Systems are not only increasing productivity, but they are also developing the capability to think and make decisions. They are replacing the human mind.

McKinsey, a leading consulting firm, conducted a study in 2017. Here are the brief findings:

  • By 2030, already proven technologies will automate half of the current jobs.
  • In 60% occupation, 1/3 of the activities can be automated
  • 400 to 800 million people will lose their jobs in the next 12 years resulting in a major global crisis.

With the advancements in the field of AI and Machine Learning, most of these eliminated jobs can well be from high skill areas as well. Let’s dive into some major occupations and see how are they affected.

Engineering

Workers on the factory floor will be the first to go as automation steps up with more reliable and self-operated equipment. Almost 50% of the jobs in process and production industries are related to maintenance. This means bye-bye to the maintenance engineers. Only those engineers will be required (for now) whose experience-based knowledge is not yet digitized and fed to the AI systems.

So if you are a student and looking for a career in Mechanical Engineering just because the job aspects are looking good right now, think again. Your future self will thank you.

Medical

Like all knowledge-based jobs, the field of Medical is also prone to the advancements of AI systems. 

Imagine how a doctor diagnoses a disease. He will look at the symptoms, compared them to what he has learned in the medical books and other literature, study similar cases from other doctors/institutes, and then comes up with his/her diagnosis with a certain percentage of accuracy.

Now imagine an AI system with access to every book ever written in medical history, every case study ever published, and any medical literature available online. Who, you think, will make a better call about that weird pain in your right forearm?

Babylon, a UK based health startup, claims that their AI-based system has outperformed real-life doctors on official exams of the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP). The average passing marks on the exam are 72. Babylon scored 82. This means 14% more accuracy for the friction of the cost. And this is just a start.

Finance

No other field is more data-driven than the financial industry.

The human decision-making process is shadowed, in part if not entirely, by emotions and emotions kill the capability to make pragmatic, data-driven decisions.

On the other hand, tools based on AI make decisions purely looking at numbers. The financial industry has already embraced sophisticated tools capable of making accurate predictions of stock movements based on market sentiments (sentiment analysis – popular field of AI), previous data, and emerging patterns that are not apparent to the human brain.

Now, why would you need a human advisor for your asset management who is wrong most of the time and also charge you for being wrong most of the time? Would you not prefer to get a digital assets manager instead? I know I would.

Legal

Lawyers are awaiting the same doomsday as doctors and financial advisors. Their entire profession is based on rules defined in legal documents (constitution, laws, local regulations, company policies, court precedences)

A better AI system, having access to every literature on jurisprudence ever written, can outperform the best of lawyers. LawGeex, a Tal Aviv based AI firm has developed software for contract reviews. Test results have shown that LawGeex is 94% accurate in identifying issues in NDAs while a typical lawyer is only 85% accurate. All you need to pay is a one-time license fee, and that’s it.

Okay, now I am scared

The AI revolution is inevitable. Just like the invention of the gasoline engine eliminated the cart drivers, AI will eliminate most of the jobs involving repetition or data-based decision making.

The only thing it might not be able to eliminate is Arts and Creativity unless AI passes the Turing test and develops self-consciousness. By that point, jobs will be the least of our concerns.

More on this later….

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