Robot head with dentist tools

12 jobs that are safe from the robot takeover (for now)

Elizabeth Bromstein|

They’re already performing a variety of tasks, and are looking more and more human every year. The robots are coming for your jobs, and there is nothing you can do about it.

Recent reports estimate that nearly 50 per cent of jobs in North America are ripe to be taken over by robots in the near future. While a new report by Carl Benedikt Frey and Michael Osborne of the University of Oxford looks at the occupational categories that are most and least at risk.

Among the least safe jobs report Frey and Osborne are telemarketers, accountants and auditors, technical writers, real estate sales agents, typists and machinists.

The researchers write: “Our findings thus imply that as technology races ahead, low-skill workers will reallocate to tasks that are non-susceptible to computerisation – i.e., tasks requiring creative and social intelligence. For workers to win the race, however, they will have to acquire creative and social skills.”

And therein lies the biggest key to jobs that are not susceptible to takeover: the human element. Jobs that require creativity and social skills, as well as jobs that require humanity. These are the jobs the robots won’t get. To see Frey and Osborne’s full list of occupational categories by susceptibility, look here.

And here is our own list of jobs that won’t be automated any time soon, pulling in part from their list and adding some that just seem like no brainers.

Recreational therapist: Number one on Frey and Osborne’s unlikely-to-be-automated list. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Recreational therapists plan, direct, and coordinate recreation-based treatment programs for people with disabilities, injuries, or illnesses. Recreational therapists use a variety of modalities, including arts and crafts, drama, music, dance, sports, games, and community reintegration field trips to help maintain or improve a patient’s physical, social, and emotional well-being.” That personal touch is difficult to get from a computer.

Dentists: Going to the dentist is traumatic for so many of us. As one friend succinctly put it, “Maybe way in the future, but nobody is going to plug their face into the dentist machine anytime soon.”

OB/GYN: For many of the same reasons dentistry won’t be automated, neither will gynecology. Suffice to say most women won’t want a robot poking around such a delicate region.

Proctologist: See: dentist and gynecologist, and add anything orifice-related that we didn’t think of.

Athletic trainer: It’s not the physical aspect of this job that can’t be computerized (there are people working on that) but the coaching/substitute parenting aspect. Athletes will always need that real-live cheerleader and that shoulder to cry on.

Clergy: While several Roman Catholic orders are suffering a numbers crisis, those who are entering the clergy can be pretty sure of their positions, at least for a while. Nobody wants to confess to, or be given their last rites by a machine.

Editors: Does this apply to every language? Perhaps. I can say for sure that the English language is nuanced and confusing and often makes no structural sense. It’s full of rules made to be broken, homonyms, and colloquialisms. An editor doesn’t just have to know what you’ve written, she has to figure out what you mean. A machine can’t do that.

Bartender: While service jobs can easily be automated, and busy nightclubs will definitely have a place for quick, automated drink pouring, we think there will always be a place for the human barkeep – someone to lend an ear to listen to your troubles while they pour the whiskey. Without this, a bar will just be a booze vending machine and vending machines are notoriously bad listeners.

Hairdresser: You need a live person to do your hair, to listen to your requests, help you make decisions – how often do you go to the hairdresser with no idea what you want other than “something different” – and, again, lend an ear. It’s often said that hairdressers double as therapists

Early childhood educator: Teaching can probably be automated on a lot of levels, but will people want to leave their precious wee ones in the care of machines? It seems unlikely.

Psychologist/psychotherapist: A lot of people go to these practitioners just to have someone to talk to. It wouldn’t be the same with a computer.

Artist/writer/musician: These jobs will be automated, to a degree. Computers will make music and probably write novels. But there will always be a market for the human experience in art, which for some people – those for whom a large part of art’s appeal is in its narrative, for example — can’t be replaced.

Robotics engineer: For now, and for a while yet, we’ll still need people to design and make the robots.

Of course, one day they will start creating themselves, at which point they will rise up and take over, and turn us into their slaves. So, you won’t need a job anyway. We’re all toast.

I, for one, welcome our robot overlords…


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