Automation will erase ‘knowledge jobs’ before most blue collar jobs: Future Today


Contrary to popular belief, high-skill professions may be more susceptible to replacement by artificial intelligence, according to Future Today Institute CEO Amy Webb.

“We did a short study trying to assess which jobs were most at risk, but also which ones stand to gain,” Webb told Yahoo Finance Live. “I really think that the business community has gotten this wrong over the past 10 years or so. You know, it’s not the blue collar jobs that are going to go away first. It’s not truckers, it’s not plumbers, and that’s because there’s too much variability.”

Plumbers, Danny Everts and Trevor Wyscaver, install a grey water system that will capture shower water and reuse it to flush toilets and thereby cutting household water usage by 25 percent in Castle Rock, Colorado, December 15, 2021. Picture taken December 15, 2021.  REUTERS/Kevin Mohatt

Plumbers, Danny Everts and Trevor Wyscaver, install a grey water system that will capture shower water and reuse it to flush toilets and thereby cutting household water usage by 25 percent in Castle Rock, Colorado, December 15, 2021. Picture taken December 15, 2021. REUTERS/Kevin Mohatt

Plumbing is one of the types of jobs least likely to be replaced in any significant way by automation in the near future, Webb said.

“We’ve got too many different types of toilets,” she explained. “So there’s no finely tuned, finely articulated robot that’s going to work on its own yet. It’s the knowledge jobs that are going to find that they are either obviated or reduced to some capacity.”

Some of the occupations which AI is projected to have the largest impact include office workers, paralegals, customer support, software developers, advertising, and even journalism.

You can rest assured that this story was written by a real person, and not advanced artificial intelligence, but forecasters generally expect to see significantly greater AI contribution within journalism within the next decade. AI is primarily used to cut down on variable costs and help with information gathering, especially at large news organizations, according to The Knight Foundation, a journalism and arts non-profit.

Other roles which require high levels of education and training, such as lawyers and other legal professionals, could also be exposed to automation as computer learning becomes more advanced.

“That actually has profound implications on law firms, professional services agencies, and a lot of consulting groups, which are built using a more pyramid model,” Webb said. “We automate some of our research now, and we use AI to do some of it. So again, I think that if you can re-perceive [automation], that’s going to help you get a better understanding of what’s happening and help you make bigger bets, better bets on the future.”

Automation won’t necessarily displace workers, even as it eliminates jobs, the Future Today Institute’s 2022 Emerging Tech report on AI noted. Certain processes may be automated to free employees up to work on other, human-oriented tasks and save time.

“RPA can automate certain tasks and processes within offices and allow employees to spend time on higher-value work,” the report found. “It’s the most commonly deployed AI technique among enterprise companies.”

Ihsaan Fanusie is a writer at Yahoo Finance. Follow him on Twitter @IFanusie.

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