Will you be replaced by a robot?
No matter what level their qualifications and experience, workers from all sorts of different industries are starting to wonder whether one day they’ll be replaced by artificial intelligence.
Amazon founder Jeff Bezos has been quoted as saying “It’s impossible to overstate the impact AI will have on us in the next 20 years.”
Right now the automotive industry is the largest user of robots (Tesla’s new $5 billion factory in the Nevada desert is almost 100% automated).
Telemarketers are also starting to see their jobs being taken over while an American fast-food chain called CaliBurger is using an AI-powered kitchen assistant to flip its burgers.
Even UK supermarket Ocado now has more than 1,000 robots in its automated warehouses.
And the Hen-na hotel in Nagasaki, Japan, has become the first ever hotel to be completely staffed by robots and, weirdly, robotic check-in dinosaurs.
While it may be especially worrying for people who do manual and service roles, a wealth of other jobs will be affected in the future.
According to an Oxford University study, the specific jobs most at risk of being replaced in the near future include loan officers, receptionists, legal assistants, retail salespeople and drivers.
In another study, researchers from Oxford and Yale looked at how long it will be before machines become better than humans at all tasks. Worryingly for workers, the study found that there’s a 50% chance of AI outperforming humans in all tasks within the next 45 years.
Nobel-prize winning US economist Robert Shiller believes that the scale of the transformation over the coming decades should lead to the government considering a ‘robot tax’, to compensate the people that machines make redundant.
It's something that has been re-iterated by Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, who wants to use the money to create a fund to re-train people who lose their jobs to advanced technology.
So could it be time to start considering your future career moves?
We don’t know what the future holds, but here are five jobs we reckon will be safe from the robot invasion for a little while yet:
An unpredictable job that requires being called out to various locations, it’s highly unlikely a robot could take over plumbing duties any time soon (though one could be kept on-hand domestically to do the yucky things, like unblocking toilets).
While there are plenty of massage chairs and contraptions out there for home use, there’s nothing quite like the feel of a real human being kneading the knots out of your back, and cracking your neck back into place. They can also check for signs of serious conditions they can't treat, and give you advice about what to do next.
Being a counsellor often requires building a complex relationship with people, and being really in tune with their needs. A robot could be programmed to give advice and empathise, but we don’t see them ever being able to carry out such a role properly.
Would you trust a robot with your house sale, divorce or defence case? Probably not. While a robot can be programmed with the laws of the land, it’s unlikely that they’ll be able to see and feel people’s reactions and adjust their approach accordingly.
Just how enjoyable would it be to see a play performed by robots? Not very. Or imagine a robotic singer, a dancer or a musician. Without a real person there’s simply no skill or talent involved, and therefore little attraction.