With homes getting smarter and cars driving themselves, you’re probably assuming that majoring in technology would open up a sustainable pipeline of job opportunities into the future. Knowing how to make, tinker, and analyse the workings of machines — our reliance on which is slated to grow exponentially in years to come — means one won’t be replaced by machines, right?
The answer isn’t as clear cut as it seems. Automation is set to transform almost all industries — the difference is only in the degree. Alibaba co-founder Jack Ma foresees that artificial intelligence (AI) will allow us to cut the 40-hour workweek to just 12 hours. “I think people should work three days a week, four hours a day,” Ma said at the World Artificial Intelligence Conference, as reported by Dice. “I think that because of artificial intelligence, people will have more time to enjoy being human beings. I don’t think we’ll need a lot of jobs” he added.
Ma’s views reflect the findings in consultancy firm McKinsey’s report on the potential effects of AI in the workplace, which studied 2,000-plus work activities for more than 800 occupations. “The hardest activities to automate with currently available technologies are those that involve managing and developing people (nine percent automation potential) or that apply expertise decision-making, planning, or creative work (18 percent),” the report said.
Here are five notable courses McKinsey’s report predict will be among the most robot-resistant:
Could a robot do your job? If you're a waiter yes, if you're a nurse, no http://t.co/kfdDGDRyFE
— Rory Cellan-Jones (@BBCRoryCJ) September 14, 2015
While there are new technologies that can help nurses do their work more efficiently, it is unlikely robots will take over their jobs completely anytime soon. McKinsey’s report estimates less than 30 percent of a registered nurse’s activities could be automated.
Instead, what is more likely to happen is that more hospitals will use robots to fetch medication and equipment, as well as handle medical waste so nurses can devote more time to caring for patients. Apart from nursing, other jobs that require human empathy are the jobs of therapists and psychologists, which are also among the least likely to be automated.
— CNN Business (@CNNBusiness) April 29, 2017
Dental practitioners are among the least likely to be replaced by robots, according to a 2015 study by researchers at Oxford University and Deloitte on the risk of computerisation of current jobs in the next 20 years. This mirrors McKinsey’s report that found only 13 percent of a dental hygienist activities can be automated. This shows the more your daily work requires expertise and direct contact with patients, the less likely your job in healthcare could be substituted by AI.
— Reuters (@Reuters) May 8, 2017
“Of all the sectors we have examined, the technical feasibility of automation is lowest in education, at least for now,” the McKinsey report reads. While there are more digital teaching tools and online courses, the “essence of teaching” remains deep expertise and complex human interactions – features an AI is incapable of in the near future.
Although philosophy, as well as other majors associated with a liberal arts degree have among the worst job prospects now, they will be more valuable in future, Cuban, an Indiana University alum says. When asked about what skills and major will dominate in the future labour market in an interview with Bloomberg earlier this year, Cuban said: “No finance. That’s the easiest thing — you just take the data have it spit out whatever you need.”
“I think there’s going to be a greater demand in 10 years for liberal arts majors than there were for programming majors and maybe even engineering, because when the data is all being spit out for you, options are being spit out for you, you need a different perspective in order to have a different view of the data. And so having someone who is more of a free thinker.”
AND I will be graduating State next spring with a BA in sociology and a minors in Spanish
— Monserrat (@fernanda_monsee) April 28, 2017
Both Cuban and Google exec Jonathan Rosenberg agree the liberal arts degree will become more valuable in the future. And they’ve got a point. According to the Oxford-Deloitte study, there is only a four percent likelihood of a social worker’s activities being automated. Unique human strengths such as social interaction and empathy will be what sets us apart and make us better than robots, which simply do not have such data to do so.