The pandemic has forced developments in automation technology to speed up. Because of the need to observe social distancing, more and more institutions and companies worldwide are adopting automation into their business processes. While this is good news for those organizations and their clientele, it’s not good for those who might lose their jobs. On top of that, robots and AI can’t get sick, nor do they require the benefits that human workers need.
Ideally, automation shouldn’t replace humans completely. There are indeed certain jobs that robots can do better, but there are also jobs that robots can’t take away from humans. These jobs go beyond performing repetitive tasks and require creativity and a mix of soft and hard skills.
To attain the best results, humans and robots should be able to coexist in the workplace. Robots would serve to automate routine tasks so that humans can focus on more specialized tasks. Institutions and corporations should invest in reskilling their workforces so that human workers can meet the new demands of their workplaces.
Can take: receptionists and cashiers
The jobs of receptionists and cashiers largely involve repetitive tasks such as answering and redirecting calls and logging data. Unfortunately, this means that robots and AI can easily take these jobs. In many places, they already have.
Employers can easily have a physical robot sitting at a desk or just a virtual AI system logging data round the clock. AI systems such as fleet management programs and IT software also allow companies to access data from the cloud instantly. This beats having to call one’s receptionist or cashier when in need of certain records.
Can’t take: teachers
Being a teacher involves more than making lesson plans and giving lectures in front of a classroom. It requires patience, empathy, communication, and decision-making based on critical thinking – all of which robots do not yet have the capacity to do. Arguably, any parent would object to having their child being taught by a machine. Children learn by example, so they need to be around adults who are good role models.
Can take: warehouse worker
In Amazon’s warehouse, robot workers sort, pack, and ship parcels. These robots relieve human workers of a lot of burdens. Amazon’s warehouse is a sprawling facility, and having robots can limit the distances that human workers walk to accomplish their jobs.
But there are still a couple of things that Amazon has to figure out. For one thing, having to deal with heavier parcels means the robots will undergo faster processes of wear-and-tear. There have also been reports of an increased number of injuries of human workers since more robots started working in the warehouse.
Can’t take: creatives
Sure, there are writing bots such as Essaybot that aim to write your essays for you, but they won’t be nearly as effective as writing it yourself. Perhaps you can also program an AI to learn how to use platforms such as Adobe Illustrator, but they’ll struggle to create original work with deeper meaning. You could program any robot to play all the right notes on an instrument, but it’s a human’s emotional capacity that makes performances beautiful and moving.
Can take: cleaners
Cleaning robots have been around for a few years, and the pandemic has only prompted more companies to employ them. Even before the pandemic, Walmart already had robots scrubbing floors and checking inventory.
Can’t take: event planners and coordinators
While planning events involves many tasks that robots or AI can do – logging data, scheduling meetings – the bulk of the job requires skills that only humans have as of now. It requires communication, negotiation, and critical thinking. It’s difficult to imagine how a robot would plan a party and think on its feet when something doesn’t go according to plan.
Can take: cooking jobs
Robots didn’t spare the kitchen. Apart from the robot chefs that fast-food chains are slowly normalizing, a new robot chef can clean up after itself. Moley Robotics has developed a robot chef capable of storing 5,000 recipes in its memory. As if that wasn’t enough, it can also be programmed to clean up its messes when it’s done.
Can’t take: counseling
Counseling jobs involve helping people process their emotions, and without the capacity to feel emotions, robots and AI can’t take over these professions. Talking to a robot or computer about grief or trauma would be like talking to a wall. This is why the only place in a counselor’s office you’re likely to see a robot in is at reception.
As if we haven’t been facing enough uncertainty these days, there’s also the possibility that our jobs may be taken from us by automation systems. Whether your job can be automated or not, it’s a good idea to continue to hone your critical thinking, communication, and empathy skills. These are skills that machines can’t have and keep us relevant in our workplaces.