Automation Will Hit Office Workers Before Skilled Workers

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Robots won't be taking over the world any time soon, but they might be taking over the workplace in 10-20 years. Research on artificial intelligence (AI) is developing at an astonishing rate. Even now, the technology that can replace people at the workplace already exists.

Smarter AI

Gone are the days when simple (compared to now) programs would clash with grandmasters in chess. Today's AI programs are smarter and more complex, dominating their human counterparts in chess, the Chinese game of Go, Japanese Shogi, and even Texas Hold-Em poker. AI programs are continually learning and evolving. One such program is Elon Musk's OpenAI. The AI set out to conquer the famous team game DOTA, and it did so in spectacular fashion.


Musk's AI program learns by playing. The program crammed 3,500 years' worth of playing in less than 20 days, enabling it to defeat the very best DOTA players. Experts believe that AI will surpass humans in every game that doesn't include luck in as early as 20-30 years. However, AI isn't playing around. AI programs are learning voice recognition, accounting, driving, telemarketing, and many other skills that could eliminate the need for human workers.

Replacing Humans

The first to be hit will be office workers: the telemarketers pushing a product, the call center agent handling 03 phone numbers, accountants, and tellers. Any job that can be replaced with an interactive program will be replaced. AI programs will enable companies to expand their operations without incurring additional costs, aside from the initial purchase of the AI. Machines do not tire, get sick, take vacation leave, or require overtime pay. Creative jobs and those that involve close human interactions might be safe for the time being, but experts believe AI will be able to perform most human tasks better by 2060.

Blue-collar Work

Automation might not hit skilled laborers as hard as reported. While the manufacturing and trucking sector is often hit with news of robot takeovers, the chances of this happening immediately are very slim. Robots in manufacturing are involved in simple and repetitive tasks, while human workers perform more complex fabrication. Automation in trucking is seen as more of an aide than a replacement for drivers. On-board AI will act similar to a plane's autopilot, only taking over on long highways.

Trucking companies won't accept full liability on a driverless truck, especially when the technology is unproven. Carpenters and electricians won't likely be replaced anytime soon as robotic hardware that can perform their tasks are just as important as software. AI is best suited for repetitive work. Unless homes are built with similar design and standards, most of the work will be performed by ordinary humans.

Overall, automation is unavoidable, but the transition will likely take time. While certain professions might be at risk, it would take company-wide reorganizations and workplace transformation that would disrupt the flow of work. The dire warning shouldn't discourage you from working properly. Perhaps good performance can convince management to put automation on hold.
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