Society has become used to embracing technology in almost every facet of life. In many ways, the robot invasion hasn’t been the destructive revolution of sci-fi proportions, but a steady evolution in which the population has welcomed automation, machine learning, and artificial intelligence (AI) as conveniences to support our activities.
There are certain industries in which automation has swiftly impacted multiple areas. Shipping and logistics, in particular, are seeing a rise of automated tools that can optimize operations and also analyze data in real-time to improve efficiency. Robots are frequently used in the processing stage of shipping to reduce the impact of human error. These are inarguably beneficial for customers, businesses, and the industry. However, their continued implementation does raise the question of what kind of impact this has upon careers.
This can be a particularly salient issue when considering a new career path. Key to surviving the robot invasion is understanding how you can adopt a role that will remain relevant. Let’s take a look at a few of the areas to consider on your way to choosing a secure career path.
It’s important to consider which types of tasks are appropriate for automation and which don’t translate. This can give you a clue as to what careers are less likely to be made obsolete by machines. As such, among the most prominent careers that can withstand automation are those professional careers that require human interaction, contextualization, and interpretation.
There are certainly elements of being a lawyer that are enhanced by technology — these usually revolve around making administrative tasks more efficient. However, a career in law is far more than simply presenting and determining the facts of a case and making a cold decision. In criminal cases, there are always likely to be elements of mitigation that need to be assessed on humanitarian grounds, and the impact of a crime is often most effectively quantified by the victim’s emotional relationship to it.
Divorce attorneys will always be best positioned to answer questions during proceedings between two parties in emotionally charged conflicts. These questions require more than a knowledge of financial and family law. Clients need compassion and empathy alongside technical skills, support, and help navigating a difficult time. These are areas that machines are unlikely to be able to replicate any time soon.
It would be easy to assume that education is about passing essential facts on topics to students, which machines could do. However, that ignores what teachers actually provide to their students. They take that raw information and guide their students — of varying abilities — through the context of the lessons in ways that help them to apply both knowledge and the wisdom it provides to their lives.
Teachers develop relationships with students that not only help them reach their potential in school but help shape them through their formative years to become well-rounded human beings. Yes, some technologies continue to help handle the factual, administrative, and assessment aspects of education — AI is already being used to grade papers. But with fully automated teaching, students would lose out on the human benefits.
One of the activities that human beings are great at that machines still struggle with is creativity. That’s not to say that creative pursuits are not enhanced by technology — most artistic, content, and design-based roles have some form of automation assisting them. But at least for the foreseeable future machines are not likely to take over in these areas.
Some positions for consideration include:
- Writing and Editing
Every so often, there will be a news story offering an example of a new AI software that has been trained to produce a piece of written work. In some cases, this can be a simple dissemination of facts. However, these programs are as yet unable to use the nuances of human experience that inform the writing and editing processes — in either fiction or journalism. Indeed, even from a content curation perspective, AI still isn’t able to distinguish the intent of a piece of content and make appropriate publishing or blocking decisions that reflect this.
- Graphic Design
Are computers able to automatically create images when programmed with enough data? Yes. However, this doesn’t mean to say that automation is likely to usurp graphic designers. The influence of human experience, visual flare, and — again — personalized context means that professional visual artists can create unique and interesting images for their clients that computers simply can’t. Indeed, visual style might be able to be replicated, but it can’t be produced from scratch in quite the way that humans can. As such, graphic careers are likely to be safe for the foreseeable future.
You shouldn’t ignore the fact that technology doesn’t operate in a vacuum. There will always be a need to recruit skilled automation technicians that can design, maintain, and improve these tools.
As such, some careers to consider include:
The more technological tools we use in our society, the greater the potential seems to be for cybercriminals to cause disruption. Pursuing a career as a security specialist can ensure that you have opportunities to keep the evolving technology we use protected. Even if you are working in a separate area of information technology (IT) or managing information systems, you will need a solid understanding of current security needs in your industry, and as such you should ensure that any training you undertake covers elements of cybersecurity.
The future of IT may well be focused on automated tools, but these advances will be driven and enhanced by software developers. These technicians analyze the needs of the project and use a combination of technical skill and creativity to design, code, and test programs to meet those needs. While there are elements of automation used in coding, they are unlikely to provide start-to-finish creative solutions in the foreseeable future without human interaction. The good news here is that development is one of the most accessible career paths to embark upon, with formal degrees and self-taught progression both being acceptable routes into the field.
Automation is making an increasing presence in our lives. Choosing a career that is unlikely to be usurped by these tools revolves around considering the unique elements that humans bring to roles, and why they will continue to give value. It’s also important to examine the potential for contributing to technological fields to support this technology, rather than push against it.
The original version of this article was first published on Future of Work.