Photo: Alex Knight
Robots taking over the world might sound like the plot of a sci-fi movie, but it’s actually much closer to reality than you realize.
In fact, brilliant billionaire Elon Musk said this week that artificial intelligence poses an “existential threat” to human civilization over the next few years. (Musk already believes we are living in a version of history that’s a computer simulation run by scientists.)
With each passing year, more and more people are being pushed out of their jobs by smart machines and software programs. One of the most popular robots around is the Knightscope K5, which replaces police officers in patrolling buildings. Bankers and lawyers will be routinely fired and replaced by algorithms. In fact, by 2030, over 38 percent of jobs in the United States could be automated. The future is now, people, and it doesn’t look like it needs many humans to thrive.
Just consider the fast food industry. One robot created by Momentum Machines can multitask so well it can make a perfect McDonalds burger in just 10 seconds—thereby replacing the need for a whole meal-building crew. Knowing that, it’s not totally outlandish to assume a robot will be taking your order and serving your food when you go out to a restaurant in 15 years.
Woody Allen was definitely onto something in ‘Sleeper.’
The jobs imminently in danger of being replaced by machines are in service, data input, and manufacturing fields, because they’re the most mechanical, and thus easiest to teach a robot or a software program. Jobs that require more creative thinking are less likely to be replaced anytime soon, but that definitely doesn’t mean they’ll be safe forever.
If all this has totally freaked you out, don’t start manically applying to jobs just yet. There are several precautionary steps you can take right now to better protect yourself and your job from the robot invasion.
Know where your job stands on the list of turning robotic
It may be scary, but the best thing you can do first is find out just how much your current job is at risk of being automated. Thankfully there’s this handy online tool aptly named “Will Robots Take My Job” that can calculated the risk percentage for you (there go those robots being smarter than us again). So for example, if you’re a cashier, you’ll learn that there’s a 97 percent chance a robot will replace you. But if you’re an environmental scientist, you only have a 3.3 percent chance of being replaced.
Make yourself invaluable
If you can work on strengthening your job skills and going above and beyond in every task handed to you, it’ll be much harder for upper management to justify replacing you. You may even want to take a few classes to strengthen your various skillsets. Showing you have a vested interest in being the best you can possibly be at your job will no doubt give you a leg up on employees that are content just doing satisfactory work.
Taking classes may also expose you to innovations in your field, which could in turn help you expand the aspects of your job so it’s less susceptible to robot takeover.
Look into related careers that require humans
Say you’re a reporter who mainly does sports game recaps. You have a high risk of being replaced by a variety of news-writing bots. But what if you slightly pivoted your writing career so that you’re a sports reviewer or commentator rather than just an information regurgitator? If you build off of the skills you already have, and utilize them to move across your field into a position that requires more creative thinking, you’ll be less replaceable.
Position yourself well to serve our robot overlords
If the robots are coming for your job no matter what, get one step ahead of them by learning how they’ll fit into your business, then become the liaison who streamlines that process. Having a robotic presence in the workplace can be jarring, so you could be the human translator who helps other employees and clients work effectively with it.
Learn to be okay with the fact that robots may be doing part of your job in the future
Some jobs may never be entirely automated. For example, people working in HR departments do a lot of data entry, but there’s also a huge amount of human interaction that’s involved, which requires emotional intelligence. That’s something robots simply don’t possess (yet). Beyond that, if robots are doing all the application reading and filing, it leaves a lot more time for HR managers to bolster new relationships with burgeoning businesses and prospective employees.
Robots may take over a lot of what humans have been employed to do thusfar, but perhaps that doesn’t have to be the worst thing. It will ultimately change the way businesses are run, and likely create new and different jobs that require sentient beings to carry them out. And until the robots of Westworld become realized, those jobs can only go to humans.