I recently received an infographic entitled “10 Common Jobs Which Won’t Exist in 20 Years Time.” I’ve reproduced the infographic at the end of the post, which was originally posted on LottoLand, a UK-based company that has something to do with gambling.
The infographic was mostly a collection of conventional wisdom about jobs that are becoming obsolete. As usual, conventional wisdom is mostly wrong, so I’ve listed out the jobs below and, where necessary, provided my own perspective.
1. Cashiers -> Self-Checkout Machines
Their explanation: “With the rise of self-checkout machines, it’s unlikely to be long until cashier jobs are made redundant entirely. On top of this, the opportunity for online grocery shopping keeps expanding, with big firms such as Amazon now offering the delivery of fresh groceries, as well as their many other services.”
My comment: Close but no cigar. Both cashiers and self-checkout machines will be replaced by RFID tags that simply charge your account as you walk out of the store. Alternatively, you’ll select goods from a showroom of samples but the actual product will be delivered.
2. Newspaper Delivery -> Electronic Reading Devices
Their explanation: “With the popularity of tables and e-readers on the rise, newspapers in their hard copy form are slowly being pushed out of the equation. With the popular gradually moving towards the internet to gain their daily news fix, the need for newspaper delivery services will soon be obsolete.”
My comment: No real arguments with this one.
3. Travel Agents -> Travel Websites
Their explanation: “With so many flight comparison websites and holiday package available at our fingertips online, consumers are becoming more and more independent when it comes to planning their trips abroad. The majority of these websites can already do practically everything a travel agent would do for you, and with the speed in which technology is progressing, it’s unlikely to be long before travel agents aren’t needed at all.”
My comment: While travel agents are no longer needed for vanilla travel arrangements, high end travel (businesspeople and rich tourists) have created a need for highly skilled agents who take care of all the details and ensure that their clients don’t get stranded or have a “United Airlines” experience.
4. Taxi Dispatchers -> Mobile Apps
Their explanation: “Mobile apps such as Uber and Lyft have allowed us to cut out the need for a middle man when it comes to ordering taxis. Unfortunately for taxi dispatchers, they are the middle man. These apps are now available in locations all over the globe, and their presence is slowly cutting out the need for regular taxi services.”
My comment: Not sure whether “taxi dispatcher” was ever a common job but certainly ride sharing services are changing that part of the transportation industry.
5. Taxi Drivers -> Self-Driving Cars
Their explanation: With the recent progress that’s been made with self-driving cars, it’s safe to assume that taxi drivers will eventually be made redundant in the future, being replaced by cheaper, labour-free modes of transport.
My comment: Self-driving cars (i.e. vehicles without any driver) currently only operate in relatively controlled areas and haven’t been well tested in the real-life grit of actual driving conditions. Beyond that, what about cybersecurity? Given the huge holes in the “Internet of Things” a hacker could hijack your car and demand that you pay a ransom or he’ll drive you over a cliff or into a semi-truck.
6. Journalists -> Artificial Intelligence Software
Their explanation: “Advanced developments in artificial intelligence software means that soon enough even writing won’t be a problem for AI, and in some cases it’s already been possible to use it for purposes such as creating quarterly reports. This suggests that in the future content could be created with any human input at all.”
My comment: ROFLMAO. First, there have been no “advanced developments” in AI software for the past 30 years. The only development has been the ability for AI algorithms to draw on “big data”; otherwise it’s the same stuff. Second, creating a quarterly report isn’t even tech writing; it’s plugging numbers into a template. For an AI program to actually write anything other than doggerel, it would need to be a truly thinking machine. Despite all the hype, we’re no closer to that than we were 30 years ago.
7. Social Media Expert -> Everyday Individuals
Their explanation: “The next generation of workers will be growing up with social media integrated into their everyday lives from the get go. With this in mind, a role solely dedicated to managing and maintaining social media is unlikely to be necessary, as there will simply be common skills rather than a specialized career.”
My comment: Yeah, until one of them accidentally tweets a private sext to the corporate account. Social media “experts” are mostly gatekeepers and they’ll always be needed, if only to keep a company from making itself look ridiculous.
8. Telemarketers -> Automated Robots
Their explanation: “Whilst you may rejoice that this could finally put a stop to those pesky calls which always seem to occur at the most inconvenient moments possible, unfortunately this is not the case. With recent advances in automated technology, robot services will soon take over these calls and messages eliminating the need for human employment, without eliminating the irritating phone calls.
My comment: It’s already almost impossible to find customers through cold-calling. Cold-calling only works when the salesperson makes an immediate personal connection with the prospect. That can’t be scripted. Nobody is going to have a conversation with a robot and buy something. The entire idea is beyond stupid.
9. Assembly Line Workers -> Automated Robots
Their explanation: “Moving assembly lines have been an integral part of manufacturing industries ever since Henry Ford introduced the practice back in 1913. Since then, the years have gone by and technology has improved so that this form of work can be done with greater accuracy and reliability by automated machines rather than humans.”
My comment: In fact, most manufacturing work is still done by humans because as inexpensive as robots might seem, they’re not as cheap as labor in countries that are poor and overpopulated. That’s doubly true in the case of forced labor, where companies can literally work a person to death (and replace with another slave) for less than the cost of the electricity to run a robot.
10. Referees -> Video Technology
Their explanation: Although this has always been regarded as a well-respected job, it’s become more and more common for both players and spectators to question the decision of referees, and instead trust technology to give more accurate results. With this type of technology only getting more advanced, it won’t be long until referees are no longer required to monitor games.
My comment: “We’ve had video replays for decades and those replays often reveal bad calls. There are still referees and there will always be referees.”
Here’s the original infographic.