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Businesses Robotics

5 White Collar Jobs Robots Already Have Taken 257

bizwriter writes University of Oxford researchers Carl Benedikt Frey and Michael Osborne estimated in 2013 that 47 percent of total U.S. jobs could be automated and taken over by computers by 2033. That now includes occupations once thought safe from automation, AI, and robotics. Such positions as journalists, lawyers, doctors, marketers, and financial analysts are already being invaded by our robot overlords. From the article: "Some experts say not to worry because technology has always created new jobs while eliminating old ones, displacing but not replacing workers. But lately, as technology has become more sophisticated, the drumbeat of worry has intensified. 'What's different now?' asked Leigh Watson Healy, chief analyst at market research firm Outsell. 'The pace of technology advancements plus the big data phenomenon lead to a whole new level of machines to perform higher level cognitive tasks.' Translated: the old formula of creating more demanding jobs that need advanced training may no longer hold true. The number of people needed to oversee the machines, and to create them, is limited. Where do the many whose occupations have become obsolete go?"
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5 White Collar Jobs Robots Already Have Taken

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  • by sterlingcrispin ( 1805040 ) on Thursday February 26, 2015 @01:30AM (#49134521)
    clickbait article is clickbait

    Financial and Sports Reporters
    Online Marketers
    Anesthesiologists, Surgeons, and Diagnosticians
    E-Discovery Lawyers and Law Firm Associates
    Financial Analysts and Advisors
    • by David_Hart ( 1184661 ) on Thursday February 26, 2015 @01:33AM (#49134531)

      I agree, PURE click bait...

      How did this get past the editors?

      • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 26, 2015 @02:01AM (#49134613)

        How did this get past the editors?

        They've been replaced by robots already.

        • replaced? when were they not robots with eliza-level AI?

        • by jandersen ( 462034 ) on Thursday February 26, 2015 @05:33AM (#49135237)

          Another place where robots might be a good replacement is at the middle management level - one of the big problem with managers is that they so often combine lack of people skills with absence of useful knowledge and inability to empathise, and introducing robots could improve on all three fronts. It certainly couldn't get worse.

          • What a coincidence! I've heard managers say the same thing about their staff.

            Both of you are wrong, keep it up and whatever project/task you're working on will be unpleasant, and at best limp to the finish line. Just about everyone has a manager, a professional in any field will get their manager's respect by learning and solving their manager's problems with minimal fuss. If after 12 months or so, that doesn't work, find a new job/manager. If your manager doesn't have problems it's probably because you'
        • First they replaced the assembly line workers. I didn't say anything because I wasn't an assembly line worker
          Then they replaced the cashiers and greeters. I didn't say anything because I wasn't a cashier or greeter.
          Then they replaced the teachers. I didn't say anything because I wasn't a teacher.
          Then they replaced the drivers, I didn't say anything because I wasn't a driver.
          Then they replaced middle management. I didn't say anything because I wasn't middle management.
          Then they replaced the teachers. I

        • Hardly; even a cheap-ass robot would do a better job catching dupes than these rubes.

          In any case, if the editors are robots, with whom is Bennet Haselton sleeping to get his personal maunderings hyped as news?

        • Ironic that TFA is full of typos.

          Some experts say not to worry because technology has always created new jobs while eliminating old ones ones, displacing but not replacing workers.

          The company claims it can weave that data into a compelling narrative that on a skill level an experienced writer can do

          can automate delivery of low-level anesthesia in applications like colonoscopies at the fraction of the cost

          I never could have predicted have the things that have come to play ten years ago
          • by gl4ss ( 559668 )

            well its obvious the tfa writer is working the job of an AI or the job of a robot.

            the blurb was puzzling enough. like, what job is an AI? or robot? or they mean that robot builders now need to build robots to build robots or AI developers are being replaced by AI's? surely they're not.

      • by plopez ( 54068 )

        The job of the editors is to maximize profitability.

      • by quenda ( 644621 )

        How did this get past the editors?

        Here are 7 ways to get clickbait past the editors [thoughtcatalog.com]

    • Maybe its time to start learning A.I. programming?
  • Black Mirror (Score:4, Informative)

    by l0ungeb0y ( 442022 ) on Thursday February 26, 2015 @01:38AM (#49134545) Homepage Journal
    I think Season 1 Ep 3 of Black Mirror just about nailed the future of the global workforce smack on the head. The rarified elite will control 99.999% of the global wealth while the rest are used as a captive consumer base, forced to watch ads and rewarded in credits for providing energy to help provide "green energy" by toiling on exercise bikes all day and/or by being used as entertainment in reality tv or porn.
    • Re:Black Mirror (Score:5, Insightful)

      by blue trane ( 110704 ) on Thursday February 26, 2015 @02:12AM (#49134663) Homepage Journal

      Solution: use the technology of money creation to fund a basic income, so people can pursue their happiness, and explore their natural creativity and wonder.

    • You're way too optimistic. I see Idiocracy becoming a reality first.

  • Not so fast (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Tony Isaac ( 1301187 ) on Thursday February 26, 2015 @01:43AM (#49134559) Homepage

    Financial and sports reporters - the examples are the types of stores that are full of facts and figures, and are better done by computers anyway. It's kind of like bemoaning computers taking away the human job of compiling telephone directories (remember those?). Not a lot of human touch needed there.

    Online marketers - Really? Creating email subject lines? And I've stumbled onto those sites. They are only effective because they make it hard to click on anything OTHER than an ad. Not exactly stealing a desirable human job there.

    E-discovery - i.e., Google for lawyers. And Wikipedia says they have 53K employees. Wait, I thought we were eliminating human jobs!

    Financial advisers - good riddance. Most of them are just trying to get you to go for the investment with the highest commission, not the best for you. Computers will follow suit, but whatever.

    Here's one they missed: radio DJs. You've heard these stations that are totally automated. No human touch, dry as a bone. The ones you want to listen to are still emceed by humans.

    • Financial and sports reporters - the examples are the types of stores that are full of facts and figures, and are better done by computers anyway.

      Let me introduce you to Red Smith and A.J. Liebling. American Pastimes: The Very Best of Red Smith [amazon.com], A.J. Liebling: The Sweet Science and Other Writings [amazon.com]

      ''I've always had the notion,'' Smith once said, ''that people go to spectator sports to have fun and then they grab the paper to read about it and have fun again.''

    • by fermion ( 181285 )
      Most jobs can be automated or be done more efficiently through automation. In computer jargon, gates are cheaper than humans, unless one is a human named Gates.

      This has been true through most of human civilization. Machines has increased the amount work that a human could do, and with power production amplified it. With electronics we code the actual human knowledge so that less skilled workers can actually approximate the output of a more skilled worker. This has been actually been since the advent of

  • No increase (Score:2, Insightful)

    by phantomfive ( 622387 )

    But lately, as technology has become more sophisticated, the drumbeat of worry has intensified.

    It hasn't increased. Probably the high-point for this worry was the Luddites. And another high-point was in the 50s, when computers were first coming out, and movies played on that worry. When was the last movie where a job-taking-computer was the main villain?

  • Garbage (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Karmashock ( 2415832 ) on Thursday February 26, 2015 @01:56AM (#49134595)

    1. High volume data reporting such as sports and fiance where people are just looking for numbers. I mean... who cares? These are things that previously were often just charts. And really, which would you rather read? A chart that gives you the numbers of some natural language engine that turns the numbers into a bogus article? Give me the chart any day. And that never took much labor.

    2. Scanning emails to to do targeted advertising. How is this a job anyone got taken away from them? For one thing, if something is going to read my emails, I'd prefer it be a robot rather then a human being. And beyond that, this is a job that wouldn't even exist without robots. After all, who is going to pay someone to go through all those emails to look for key words and then match those key words to targeted advertising? Dumb.

    3. I'm not terribly worried about a supped up version of WebMD. But if that system can actually do that job... then that is amazing and a blessing. Look at all the people struggling with paying for medical bills. National budgets are getting strained with the expense. And then so many communities don't have first class hospitals to get access to such people even if they can pay/they're subsidized. This technology if it works will save lives and lower medical costs which is something we sorely need. The first two things listed were bullshit and the third if viable is fucking amazing.

    4. Discovery in law suits is possibly the most boring thing anyone in law can ever be assigned to do. Whenever this happens they always put the most junior interns they can get their hands on to do it. It is a bullshit job that no one wants to do and a horrible waste of a law degree. Also... this could make court costs more reasonable... which is also good.

    5. The problem with human financial analysts is that they get emotional. They get scared or they get greedy or they get lazy or they drawn into some fad. What is more, they're expensive again if you want a good one and that's just out of reach of most people. AI financial assistants will have their own problems. But something is better then nothing.

  • His business card said "Office of the Public Defender."

  • I'm sure many devs have had jobs where they're working on some sort of killer automation. Something that makes them look out into a sea of office workers thinking "by end of year, we'll only need half of you..."

    They're jobs that technology has long since claimed, yet they still exist. Nothing's perfect. It'll be a slow road.

  • by sjames ( 1099 ) on Thursday February 26, 2015 @02:33AM (#49134745) Homepage Journal

    Create automation that replaces politicians, CEOs, and economists and watch the fixes fly!

    We just need a set of context sensitive executive decision makers (deluxe model uses an actual radiation source for random numbers.). They can have options like 'steal from social programs', 'tax the poor', 'Give banks a handout', 'blame the other party', etc. CEO versions can include 'give employees food stamp applications', 'layoff', 'plunder the pension fund', etc.

  • by sonamchauhan ( 587356 ) <.moc.liamg. .ta. .cmanos.> on Thursday February 26, 2015 @02:52AM (#49134811) Journal

    Google "define computer"

    Answer: "[...] a person who makes calculations, especially with a calculating machine."

    That role was the first to go - the others are just side-effects.

  • Journalism has already been crowdsourced. All you have to do is look at the number of blog postings and discussions at any website that references "news" articles (including Slashdot) to realize that.

    Newspapers are already being forced into a co-operative model to apply the resources needed to do true investigative reporting, like the most recent HSBC scandal. None of them have enough staff left on the payroll to do it by themselves.

    Software and IT have much the same problem, though the "crowd" is a

  • What never fails to concern people is that 100 years ago, 80% of humans worked in agriculture and earned $5k per year, and today we are replacing jobs that pay $100K per year at X rate with technology (or imports etc.)... Can we deduce from those two facts that the future is in jeopardy? "Poverty used to be in decline, but now wealth is in decline!" That's the argumentum in terrorem or "doom and gloom" fallacy.

    The people quoted in TFA are having trouble speculating what the new jobs will be. Recall the hysteria in the 1970s and 80s about the number of USA jobs moving to Japan, or the 90s-2000s jobs moving to China. 80,000 jobs doing X were lost was a constant headline over 4-5 decades. Yet my state has

    If the 80,000 jobs lost to Y during X period was an accurate predictor of concern we'd have reached 90% unemployment a decade ago. Technology both replaces and creates jobs, like App Developer or 3D computer animation artist, or smartphone assembler, that no one imagined. True, most of the new jobs being created today are being created in emerging markets, but as China develops more cell phone assembly jobs, USA sells China more Buicks.

    If someone with a time machine had gone back to meet me 30 years ago and shown me film of me using a cell phone to browse the internet and speak to my kid in Europe, and told me the technology cost me $30K per year, I'd have believed that. And today that "imagined value" means I'm living like a person making $29k more than I actually am.

    The BLS has not been the greatest predictor of which jobs will be in demand, but has predicted employment markets in aggregate pretty well. "The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicted a 15% increase in the employment for all animal care and service workers between 2012 and 2022; however, employment of zookeepers was predicted to grow more slowly than other positions (www.bls.gov)." http://www.bls.gov/ooh/fastest... [bls.gov]

    • OOps "Yet my state has UNDER 5% unemployment, and 15% of the people are difficult to imagine employing" I used the "sideways V" symbol and html disappeared the sentence fragment.
    • Part of the issue here is that history provides no guide. There have been times in the past that show simularities, like the industrial revolution, but they are no more than simularities - computers is a fundamentally new technology, and so it is hard to estimate the impact of an event that has never before occured.

      importantly, many of these new jobs do not scale with population. If the population doubles then you need twice as many farmers growing food, twice as many people at production lines to make thei

    • As they say in the Stock Market:

      Past performance is no predictor of future results.

      A lot of people who thought otherwise when buying mortgage-backed securities learned that the hard way not long ago.

      If you can mathematically prove that any time jobs are handed off to external forces that new jobs will spontaneously arrive to replace them, you will be awarded a Nobel Prize. No question of it.

      As it is, you're simply extrapolating, and extrapolation has become extremely hazardous in the last century because of the higher rates of change in so many contributing

      • I think the point is that current results have never been predicted accurately in the past. Sure, it could all go horribly wrong this time, but just watch Hans Rosling's video and try to see how everyone is going to go backwards for the first time in a century. More efficient production makes more affordable product which makes for higher consumption which creates more jobs. http://www.ted.com/talks/hans_... [ted.com] I keep seeing people are suspicious and concerned it's going wrong, but that's also explained
        • which makes for higher consumption which creates more jobs

          ... but now even those jobs will be automated. Foxconn is buying enough robots to automate their assembly work, throwing a million people out of work, because robots are now cheaper than slave labor wage humans.

        • But again, that's just extrapolation. Blind hope without even the promise of faith that things will be ever and ever the same, amen without a point where one more straw breaks the camel's back.

          That's neither prudent nor human. We succeed because we ask "what if?", not because we assume.

          Bill Gates can afford as much toilet paper as anyone could ever want, but how much will he buy?

          Conversely, when no one has any income, what does it matter how cheap things are? That's like giving them a tax break based on a p

  • Our economic system and extensive robotic automation of production are inherently incompatible. Machines can replace labor, but if humans aren't working, then they have no jobs and no money to spend, and then you have nobody for you to sell your goods and services to.

    Back in the 1960's, there was a TV show called "The 21st Century", which was narrated by Walter Cronkite. He kept going on about how much more leisure time people would have in the 21st century. What the futurists of the day forgot to consider was that if you put everyone out of a job, nobody is going to have money to spend, and thus there would be no market to sell to.

    • by ledow ( 319597 )

      1) Robots cannot replace all jobs. We've yet to make a self-fixing robot of any note. AI is NOWHERE NEAR capable of doing the simplest of paperwork or administration. Hell, we've barely automated anything of the IT departments, let alone anywhere else. All they can automate are mindless, repetitive, labour-intensive (and sometimes dangerous) jobs. Though that puts a LOT of people out of work, that's by far not the majority.

      2) If robots do replace all jobs, the "money" comes from sale of goods just the

      • by itzly ( 3699663 )

        The result of the above is that food and goods become so cheap and plentiful

        At least you'll need a source of free and unlimited energy for that.

      • by swb ( 14022 )

        Automation can't replace all jobs, but from what I've read there are a couple of concerns.

        A lot of the jobs that seem to be most easily automatable are "good" white collar jobs that previously had required some skill. There's a lot less manufacturing left (partly due to automation, but partly due to offshoring of manufacturing), so there's a lot less fallback jobs outside of very low wage service jobs.

        Even if the job loss ends up being only 20%, 20% unemployment is a big deal. It can have higher-order eco

      • 2) If robots do replace all jobs, the "money" comes from sale of goods just the same. Half the workforce are working and doing the work of the other half - the robots produce the goods / services, and the humans lounge at home.

        And just who is going to give money to the humans lounging at home with which they will pay for housing, food, clothing, transportation, goods and services? How much money will they be given? Or is this "home" you speak of just going to be a tent in Hooverville?

        3) The result of the above is that food and goods become so cheap and plentiful that the concept of "buying" them will seem old hat.

        The economic system is one where all goods and services have to be paid for at some level. Even subsidized services like public transportation and health care require some level of payment. Are you suggesting that the long-term unemployed will

    • by tmosley ( 996283 )
      You work one of the few jobs that needs to be done by people, earning multiple millions in current purchasing power a year, and retire within a few years to live off of the interest. As a society gets richer, they work less, not by working shorter hours, but by retiring or "retiring" early. I, for one, wouldn't mind having a chain of robo-restaurants that I spend a few hours a week looking over while they rake in the bux.
  • Frankly I'm not worried, anyone who can scrape together the metals to build a metalicarap will be able to manufacture pretty much anything. I think we'll see a massive reaping of the super rich and a redistribution of wealth amongst everyone once the need for Labor is completely eliminated.
  • ...the industrial revolution!
  • What's different now is that we have an out of control redistribution machine running full speed all across the planet Earth, working hard to stuff the pockets of people who say "no" (bureaucrats) and most especially the cronies of the central banks (ie Wall Street, finance industry, etc). If people were A. allowed to do what they wanted, and were prosecuted or sued for actual HARM rather than prevented from doing things because someone thought they MIGHT harm someone (not to mention forced to hire people
  • Repetitive and easily managed process are ripe for replacement, just ask telephone operators, and higher paid positions are reduced in favor of less costly staff trained in specific functions, just as MD's about NPs and Nurse Anesthetists. As machines get better at collecting, analyzing and recognizing patterns people who do that will be replaced by machines, just as the spreadsheet replaced begins of low level accountants crunching numbers by hand. The ability to use that information for decisions making
  • Even if you accept the premise that new jobs will be created by the new technologies, there are still risks.
    1) The new more-demanding jobs will be beyond the intelligence and abilities of a larger and larger portion of the population. What happens when the computers and robots are smarter than the average bear/human?
    2) Even if a person is capable of performing one of these more-demanding jobs, the new jobs will demand that they spend more and more years in training and learning. Without a significant incre

    • I suppose another alternative is a massive depopulation of the human species on earth. That can easily be accomplished if the struggle for wealth distribution devolves into war.

      At least war is something that humans with few weapons/resources afforded to them are much more effective at than self replicating robot armies decked out with the latest military hardware.

  • Robots can do the most worthless employees jobs far more efficiently and save corporations a lot more money.
    Start with the executives. Hell roombas can make better decisions than these guys.

  • Landfills, just like any other obsolete and unwanted assets.
  • These white collar jobs aren't being replaced any more than the spreadsheet and accounting software replaced the accountant.
    There is still a human at the top. A computer can't completely replace a lawyer and won't be able to for a very long time.
    This is just FUD. There are jobs that are at risk and just like what has happened with farmers, ditch diggers, and accountants
    one person can now handle the work of 10 (or 100) people but as long as the pace is reasonable and there is still a need for
    a percentage of

  • Did you say "overlords"? You meant "protectors": https://www.youtube.com/watch?... [youtube.com]

  • by 140Mandak262Jamuna ( 970587 ) on Thursday February 26, 2015 @10:14AM (#49136435) Journal
    Technology has been decimating jobs since the industrial revolution. But all the jobs destroyed were in India and China. They had 25% of the world GDP before industrialization. They had even higher fraction before the age of exploration distributed cash crops (sugarcane, tea, coffee, breadfruit, cotton) around the world. So for centuries all the philosophers, economists and sociologists did not even understand the full impact of the industrialization. Mostly they saw it as political issues, colonialism, anti-colonialism, etc etc.

    Read the The Rational Optimist by Matt Ridley to get an idea of the doom and gloom being predicted for centuries. Matt takes the view all these gloom predictors were wrong and the industrialization is an unadulterated success for humanity. He seems to think humanity consists of Europe and USA. This review sums it up nicely [amazon.com]

    The job destruction is also accompanied with wealth transfers and power transfers. Finally the job destruction finally lapped up the shores of Europe and USA by 1980s. Slowly middle class of America is waking up to what has been done to them. Their jobs are gone. The "wealth" they have as home equity is a fickle fictional paper gain. Their pensions are gone. Their investments in 401K funds is being used to transfer more power to the top 0.5% of the rich.

    Typically very smart and hard working people end up in the top 2% by income and usually end up in the band 98th percentile and 99.5percentile. (To reach the top 0.5% you must have inherited wealth or take huge risks and be lucky). The wealth transfers from third world to industrialized nations had run its course, wealth transfer from the bottom 80% to top 20% has run its course. Till then these guys were very happy and egging it along. Now there is no real wealth left below 90%. The momentum of the economic policies set in motion by them is taking money from the 90 to 98 band and moving it to the top 0.5%.

    If you finish college and get in to the 99% cut off entry level salary and stay exactly at the 99% cut off all through your career, it is not enough to get you into the top 1% by wealth (5 million according to IRS and 8 million according to the feds). Till about 2000s, top doctors, lawyers, accountants routinely made it to the top 1% without inheritance. Not any longer. Citation provided [ucsc.edu]

  • What I'm observing right now is that I, as a computer expert, have less work to do because most of the programming for what I did the last 15 years is done already and available for free. Example from a related field: Good fonts would cost a few hundred bucks 10 years ago. Now they are available for free with MS, Google and Co. constantly shelling out new ones. We all know what usefull server setups or IDEs used to cost and how easyly they are available for free, in abundance.

    Curiously enough, I do get the

  • When the cost of automating the factory jobs in places like China is less than paying humans to do it, then you will see big problems.
    Right now the talk is about, "they will move the jobs to Indonesia or Africa", etc; How would the CCP deal with Billions of unemployed? How would the US govt?

    The problem starts when large groups of people lose their jobs to automation and robots.

    What would happen to those employed in the Ag industries if tech showed up that could pick and process produce much quicke

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