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Sorry, There's No Such Thing as a "Robot Proof" Job

I hope you had a wonderful and relaxing Labor Day weekend, the time of year when we celebrate the U.S. labor force by emailing them in the wee hours and making them come to work on Monday.

Well, at least a robot hasn't stolen your job yet, right? Okay, that's alarmist malarky because I keep reading that there are many "robot-proof" jobs if we simply plan ahead or adjust mid-career accordingly. A few "high-touch jobs" that haven't experienced the robot invasion yet include hairdressers, physical therapists, childcare workers, doctors and nurses.

Jobs of the future from CNBC.

Instability in the job market is why every parent these days wants their child to go into a STEM field or medicine. In the process, grade school has become a high-pressure endeavor, with parents demanding Billy's or Bella's grade in PE be changed from a 3 to a 4 -- even though grade school should be about learning from mistakes and learning to learn. Besides, colleges aren't going to ask for Billy's 3rd grade transcript. At least, not yet.

Anxiety In the Age of AI
Recent surveys reveal half of the human workforce is highly worried about the robotic workplace invasion and the threat it presents to their own job security. Robots don't ask for money or time off, they don't complain how they're doing the work of three people, they don't create HR headaches and best of all: they never leave work. They are at the workplace 24/7/365, recharged and ready to go.

Talk about a dream employee for management. How are we humans to compete?

On some level, we cannot. So we do the next best thing. We create another list of robot-proof jobs.

We make these lists of robot-proof jobs in an effort to make ourselves feel more secure as AI makes us feel increasingly insecure about our job security. At the same time, we make sure our first graders are doing practice problems for next year's gifted and talented exam. If you're prepping your kid a full year in advance for the second grade G&T test, however, does it mean the kid is really gifted? For today's parents, that's not the point. The point is to put their children on an academic track that will eventually propel them into a robot-proof job that won't exist.

Getting Real About the Robotic Workplace Invasion
Every employee in every industry is vulnerable to displacement by technology. Even in medicine, where IBM's Watson is helping hospitals personalize patient treatments and can beat doctors in predicting diabetes.

As for the other "robot-proof" jobs mentioned above, let's take them one at a time, shall we? Not to split hairs, but robots are getting ready to do our hair.

As physical therapists, robots are helping human PT patients regain finger movement, among other things. Robotic childcare workers are in the beta stage. Robots are also rolling down hospital halls and they're working hard on their bedside manner. Some robots can already take blood samples from bed-ridden patients.

More Policy, Fewer Lists
Denying reality isn't doing us any favors. We need to get our heads out of the collective sand regarding the rise of the robotic workforce. We need to proceed to the policy phase where we can debate and clearly define the role, scope, and the extent to which robots and AI will be incorporated into the average corporation. It could require new laws to bar discrimination against human employees.

We also need to discuss how (or if) we will guarantee the human workforce stable employment going forward, and what the plan will be for human employees displaced permanently by robots. Will universal basic income become a reality over the next decade? Again, we need to talk about these things for real.

The robots work among us, and they come in peace -- and occasionally in pieces that require human assembly. So let's stop looking for the next generation of robot-proof jobs and start making concrete plans for what will be our human role in an AI economy. It begins by admitting to ourselves that there are no robot-proof jobs anymore. There's no app for that, unfortunately.


  1. Great, original article about something not everyone is talking about. I really enjoyed the videos that you have alongside the article. Really well chosen and really good way to break up the content.


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