We wish that the rising technological ability of artificial intelligence and robotics meant that humanity looked forward to a world without the need for everyone to work 40 hours a week. Instead, however, the threat of automation promises only to destroy jobs and leave people scrambling to make ends meet.
This isn’t theoretical: automation has already claimed some jobs and seems poised to eliminate the human element from others in the near future. Let’s take a look at some of the jobs that no longer exist thanks to automation.
Believe it or not, the term “computer” once referred to a person’s job, not a piece of technology. The original space missions launched by NASA required human computers to create complicated mathematical solutions. They had to account for things like gravitational pull, launch angle, and fuel consumption. Did you see the film Hidden Figures? That’s what we’re talking about.
The advent of the microchip, however, essentially deleted this job from existence. While there are still physicists who can run those kinds of numbers by hand, there is no official job title for such a person. The hard work of computing has been shifted to the world of programming instead.
While accountants and secretaries can still find plenty of work, the field of bookkeeping has been automated. Accounts payable software gets the job done–and you don’t have to pay it a salary or benefits. Before computers were commonplace, the job of that software was handled by a human employee: a bookkeeper.
Logs, ledgers, spreadsheets, and the like were once all kept in notebooks and managed by one person or department at a company. The invention of software that could handle the bulk of this work led to many roles in the office being combined. Now there are very few dedicated bookkeepers; instead, the tasks now also fall to accountants or secretaries.
As of the time of this writing, self-driving cars or drones that deliver packages are in their infancy, but they are a reality. In a few short years, assuming no major legislation alters how companies can use this technology, automated cars are likely to replace the job of couriers. People who drive taxis, deliver food and packages, and even truckers could all be facing the end of their industry.
As more advanced robotics become reality and not just science fiction, many more jobs will vanish. Soldiers could be replaced with drones. Astronauts might even be replaced with robotic probes like the Mars rover. There is some good news, at least: some jobs will always demand a human touch. However, this means that people who are in jobs that are being displaced will need to retrain into a new field or risk falling through the cracks of tomorrow’s world.