The threat of your job being taken by a robot at some point in the near future is pretty real. And, with headlines that read “The Machines Are Coming,” “How Technology Is Destroying Jobs,” and “What Happens to Society When Robots Replace Jobs?” it’s hard not to be at least a little concerned.
That’s why it’s so handy that NPR created a tool to help you see exactly how likely it is for your particular job to be automated. While it doesn’t cover everything, it does give you a pretty good idea about what direction your profession (or a similar profession) is going, and whether that direction includes, you know, people or not. You can access it here.
Bookkeepers, for example, have a 97.6% chance of being automated in 20 years, while mental health and substance abuse counselors only have a 0.3% chance of being replaced by a robot. That’s because the four most important criteria for deciding whether a machine will take over or not are if the job requires coming up with clever solutions, personally helping people, working in small spaces, and negotiating. Bookkeeping ranks poorly, while counseling covers all of these, and then some.
So, what can you do if it looks like the robots are coming for your job? Well, definitely think about what skills you should be acquiring to stay competitive in your field, but also look more closely at those four criteria used to create this tool.
To prevent the machines from sneaking up on you, brainstorm ways to increase your opportunities to interact with people, solve (non-mathematical) problems, and negotiate in your current career. If given the chance to shape your role, don’t just think about your future, think about the future of technology and what that might mean for you.
Finally, you’ll want to take this all with a grain of salt. The research study the tool was based on, of course, can’t possibly be 100% precise, and some results are not the most believable. The notion that actors have a 37.4% chance of becoming automated or that barbers have a 79.7% chance of being replaced by machines is a bit absurd. I don’t see myself going to a robot barber anytime soon—or even in 2035.