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Are there any professions that are immune to automation?


#1

Seems like more and more low-skill jobs are getting automated away, and as I look at what the future might bring, some high-skill jobs look like they’re on that path as well.

The question I posit is simple: what fields are less susceptible to automation, if any, and why do you think they are?

I’d not focus on the artistic fields since they mostly don’t pay that well.


Personally, the first field that comes to mind would be architecture, although, it’s probably not 100% immune. I’ve just noticed that robots aren’t that good at art.


#2

Next week’s news will feature an architectural ai.

A position I think is harder to automate entirely but you can significantly lower the skill level required are tech positions.

My field, refrigeration, won’t be automated immediately because we’ll need to see more sensors and more advanced electronics built into the systems. This will allow the skill level to be reduced to “part replacer”. Luckily with people and their unwillingness to part with their money the adoption of such tech for a simple cooler will take a while imo.


#3
  • Jobs that inherently require humans, like acting

  • Some fields enjoy a sort of political protection. I’m sure airline pilots could have long been replaced by computers, but they are useful to companies because they absorb the blame in case of accidents. If Boeing/Airbus were to replace pilots this would put any responsibility on them instead.

  • Machines are only good at repetitive tasks so fields that don’t follow any routine and require constant creative input are fairly safe. E.g. science needs humans because you can’t automate what we haven’t even figured out yet.


#4

I don’t think people will ever accept not having a human pilot, maybe like the current self driving car rules w/ a human ready to take the wheel. Also there isn’t at whole air traffic control mess to deal with first but mostly I thinks most jobs are just matter of time.


#5

Which is funny, because autopilot decreased accident rate…


#6

modern airplanes are closer to “self driving” than you think, and they have been for a while

The pilots are essentially a liability thing now, like @pFtpr said.

Here’s the bottom line on automation. Regardless of how good the tech gets, there’s diminishing returns on the R&D required and the scalability

Compute power might be cheap, but robotics and informatics are not, so for the forseeable future, we’re probably only going to see jobs that have a massive pool of workers at a low market value add. (welding, driving, cashiers, data entry) People will experiment at other fields for PR points and as a latent threat against unionization, but it’s academic as long as we don’t culturally train people to hate human interaction at every level of their day to day (we’ve had checkout automation for decades, and yet no fully automated checkouts until this year)


#7

Yeah, that’s definitely where I see things going. I wonder how long it’s going to be until kids can’t get summer jobs. I’m sure there’s a lot of additional stuff they can do, but it’s seeming to get harder and harder…


#8

it might actually be easier to get a summer job in a networked gig economy, it’s the social mobility upward from that summer job that becomes the concern

that’s another weird facet of this, most of the margins on the low value work are being squeezed because of networks like uber, fiverr, and mech turk, but those jobs are becoming more accessible, too.


#9

That’s where Internships come in. They’re easy to get because there are no expectations, and they provide you experience.

I’m thinking summer jobs for <18 year old students, not college kids. In college, you should have an internship, although, I’m starting to see high school kids grabbing internships, which is odd to me…

Can you elaborate on that? I’m not entirely sure how it relates…


#10

I initially scoffed at the idea of universal basic income, but with the subject of automation and ubi coming up more often on JRE, I’m becoming more and more supportive of the idea.

To agree with whats already been said in the thread, IMO there will be some unions and government jobs that due to contracts, voting power, liability etc, those jobs will remain. But I think even some creative and science jobs could suffer. Plug in the right data to the right architecture and algorithm and you have pictures, paintings etc produced- and maybe even unifying theories some day. Just looking at automotive frames and suspension parts produced by AI is damn near art haha- yet more functional as well- a really good marriage between form and function.


#11

None are.

It is only a matter of time and we have no idea what we are going to do with that many people with that much free time. Not everyone will be a scientist, artisan or be able to prusue their own form of happiness. And even arts and science could be automated later. There will be issues.


#12

so the whole point of automation is to reduce labor costs, right?

there’s still an overhead to implementation, and the margins in vertically integrated companies basically settle at whatever that cost is provided that their competitiors are also automating

The thing is, the gig economy does the same thing without actually reducing the amount of labor. People get paid less on average for the same work, but accessibility to work for the labor force is drastically increased. Things like uber and fiver are just massive scab arbitrage networks (excuse the union parlance)

So not only do you need to automate better than your competitors, but also automate more cheaply than an increasingly network-arbitraged and infinitely replaceable pool of gig labor.

This trend might actually delay or reverse automation at several different scales, it’s going to be interesting to see how they interact.

We already see this in a primitive form via click/goldfarming, sweatshop labor, etc.


#13

UBI is just neutered, ineffectual pseudo-socialism that lets the multinationals who crippled the basic system of public infrastructure and services in the first place continue to thrive and keep people dependent on them. It’s essentially just privatizing welfare by turning it into a corporate tax write-off.

Take your pick of Democratic Socialism, rollback of regulatory capture, and/or aggressive Antitrust if you actually want to treat the cause of the problem rather than the symptoms.


#14

I would have agreed, but taken into context of potential impact from automation, IMO I want to be less politically draconian in opinion and it’s time to have good discourse on the topic.


#15

there’s also the economics to consider. At best UBI is keynsian fantasy using all the scientific rigor of Munchhausen’s journey to the moon. At worst it’s a cynical play at rebranding more and more basic public services in a way that lets massive corporations exploit them, and by proxy, the people forced to use them.

Government revenue doesn’t work like a household or business’ – they don’t work on positive balances and they have access to monetary policy. This means that for the numbers of UBI to work, you either engage in hyperinflation on the order of cambodia, venezuela, and zimbabwe, or you gut all other public infrastructure and services.

In the most optimistic scenario you additionally tax the only institutions that could support a plan that large, the multinationals. Those multinationals will work for regulatory capture, but in the short term offer subsidies to people that use their services to the exclusion of others in order to make that tax rate back.

You’ve essentially created an externality market that lends itself to crushing communities, small business, and individual social mobility, and installs these multinationals as far more influential fixtures than they already are. You’re allowing for corporate crowding out instead of public sector crowding out.

At least public sector crowding out builds roads and parks.

UBI, in any implementation, is inviting in the wolves at the door. You’re handing your freedom and your fate to the people who got us into the mess that made it seem attractive in the first place.


#16

Calculon doesn’t think so. :slight_smile:


#17

I liked the way Kurzgesagt talked about it.


#18

I would say space travel to other places where supreme automation hasn’t yet occurred.

Branch out to new worlds.


#19

Something like a Von Neumann probe would be a much more efficient way to explore the Galaxy. Humans are not needed there either.


#20

I’ve yet to see an argument for it that isn’t just Silicon Valley Propaganda for corporate erosion of public services. Criticism of the american welfare system is totally valid – a lot of the drawbacks of it were put in place by private interests and earmarks afterwards, however, to achieve a less efficient version of the conditions that make UBI AND Welfare attractive to massive corproations.

In american welfare, you have to lobby to change policy to exploit the poor. Under UBI, you can freely set the conditions if you have a monopoly or run a cartel with others in your industry,

BTW – the study that says UBI promotes growth uses bunk economic theory that relies on infinite monetary velocity and ignores consolidating incentives, and was paid for by a think tank that’s funding sources are funneled from large SF firms and billionaires.

Their chief economist was former head of the world bank, an institution known for ransoming grants in exchange of multinational friendly economic policy