Will your job disappear with the advent of AI by 2030?

As I write this blog, I wonder whether my job as a business writer will be overtaken in the future by software programs.

Already, the job of business analysts and financial report writers is in jeopardy. Quarterly reports can now be sipped out of annual or quarterly results of companies by software scripts and apps.

Machines are useful to man in a way that they can make his life easier, do repetitive tasks with accuracy and free up his time to let him find his true purpose.

An automated drill can unscrew faster than a human, for instance.

They should be deployed in doing dangerous and dirty tasks such as cleaning the windows of a skyscraper or clearing a gutter. But when it comes to deploying them in places where humans work will we see a social impact.

While visiting a few McDonald’s outlets in Australasia, I was surprised to see only 2–3 people manning the entire outlet.

Often there was nobody at the cashiers. So how do they process orders? McDonalds’ has put up touchscreens (a kind of Microsoft Surface) where it displays the food menu and the specials on offer.

Select your order on the screens, a touch of your credit card on the PoS machine, and you’re done. Queues of customers, as a result, have vanished.

For the less tech-savvy customers, there is a scant staff to take orders.

If you’re employed at a quick service restaurant outlet, your job certainly could be at risk of getting wiped out.

In the retail sector, where offerings are standardized such as buying milk or a biscuit off the shelf, retail staff would actually not be needed.

If you work as a cashier, you would do good by upgrading your skills.

Amazon Go, kind of outlets where you can just pick up and walk off the supermarket are coming up soon.

The debate between machines versus humans is not new. There are already a lot of jobs that have disappeared in the last two decades. You don’t need a large amount of ticket checkers and bus conductors. The RFID tokens on subways or apps with QR codes just do the job of allowing entry and exit.

In some subways around the world, you don’t even have entry gates. It’s only upon exit that you require a tag off.

Machine learning — a concept where a machine or a software script learns various permutations and combinations of a process quickly can drive even a human expert out of job. However, it could be a blessing in disguise for mankind.

What’s the fun in a human filling petrol in a car a hundred times a day for years. Let a machine take over that job and render a human jobless. This will let humans focus on solving the more pressing issues facing earth.

Let’s focus on other sectors such as finance and trading. Dozens of apps already exist on the Google Play or Apple Store which can recommend you the best stocks to pick up for the short or long term. Algorithms exist that can make hedge funds make billions in a trade in a day or a week.

Branchless and digital banking is a concept in vogue for almost a decade now.

How about the jobs of a driver, a teacher, a doctor or a lawyer? Will they get replaced? And what about chefs and columnists or counsellors?

Fleet managers would find a hard time, in my humble opinion.

Algorithms now guide Uber drivers to locations where demand is peaking up. Transport schedulers will have no role to play in a world, where algorithms inform taxi drivers to arrive for a pickup when a staffer logs off from a computer.

Java or python scripts now determine which items get sold off an e-tailer’s site faster. Delivery companies will employ drones as well as humans.

History has shown that where a task is repetitive, it can be easily automated.

Say you have to file taxes, e-accountants can do it for you. A chartered accountant job is definitely in danger if he focuses just on the mundane filings where a form-16 can just do the job.

Of course, more tax compliances will make his job more in demand, till coders catchup to write code on the new rules.

You don’t need a lawyer now to draft a rent agreement. Just enter the key details on some apps — and pop comes out a draft agreement.

Of course, you need lawyers in complex cases such as for filing a divorce or a merger deal. But for the run of the mill stuff, a small piece of instructions to a microprocessor can do.

Travel agents are already replaced by online booking sites where you can plan a trip by the click of a button.

Warehouse pickers and packers will need to worry. As assembly lines get cheaper it will be more efficient for warehouses to deploy robots to pick an item and place on the right shelf.

Some jobs such as that of massage therapists will exist. Electric massage chairs exist for a decade or more. But they have hardly replaced the need for a human touch.

Drivers in western markets where towns are fairly are planned may not be needed a few decades in the future, when self- driven tech becomes fairly error-proof.

But we would however always need drivers in places with heavy traffic.

Teachers would always be needed. YouTube and other apps have shown that despite e- lectures, humans always loves to learn from each other.

Doctors, of course, will not be replaced. But they will increasingly use AI tech to diagnose and robotic instruments to perform surgeries.

Same goes for caregivers, nurses, and counsellors. Professions which require enough degree of human empathy will leave robots useless.

Chefs will not be replaced. I have not heard of a machine yet which can taste or smell the food, as humans do.

Whenever a job gets creative, robots will find hard to compete.

Actors, painters, fiction writers who emote feelings through their work, will not be replaced. Poets will never be replaced.

Tech giants are trying hard to make their algorithms stronger with machine learning. Latest ad spoofs on Alexa, Google Home and Siri are just an example.

The day is not far where various degrees of machine learnings by different devices will clash with each other. That’s where human decision making will come into the picture.

But as tech giants feed human learning inside machines, they will become more and more ‘intelligent’. Will they become human?

Machines will always do a bad job of handling people issues, where empathy becomes the prime factor.

Jobs which require sudden decision making for unheard of scenarios, such as law enforcement will always need human supervision.

And you would always need plumbers and electricians. Of course, they will come with sophisticated IoT tools. They may be able to diagnose the problem in your refrigerator while sitting in their home. And you would always need hairdressers and makeup artists.

The software can write further software. Machines can make bigger machines. But you would need the human to write that first piece of code.

Graphic designers, video editors and creative artists will have to up their game. There are already apps available on your phone that can produce a decent video or graphic within a minute.

Thus if you’re a creative artist, your real competition in coming days will be from machines.

Bartenders will get replaced where the drinks on the bar are a standard 150 ml shot of bourbon. You could just press a button to retrieve the drink. Or a bartender might employ cheap virtual assistants for rote drinks while keeping the customer service to themselves.

The debate in the coming decade will not be the outsourcing of back-office jobs from the West to East but of the wiping of these jobs altogether.

And of course, my job as a financial reports writer will already be outsourced to a software script.

The article was first published on www.timesofindia.com.