• By 2030, 20% of the entire planet’s workforce could be handled by robots instead of people.
  • Most at risk are jobs in factories, telemarketing, accounting and - surprisingly - sport referees.
  • But there are certain jobs that are safe from robot replacements. At least, for now.

As smart technology takes a greater role in shaping lives it’s become a common sight to see computerisation and digitalisation in the workplace.

A 2017 study by the McKinsey Global Institute hypothesized that, by 2030, up to 800 million jobs all around the world could be handled by robots instead of people. That’s one-fifth of the entire planet’s workforce.

At the most risk are jobs in factories, telemarketing, accounting and surprisingly referees in sport.

Leading fast food restaurants, notably McDonald’s, have already replaced some human cashiers with sleek machines, as diners increasingly choose to order their food through a kiosk or app, rather than talking to another person.

Other jobs often listed as ‘at risk’ include telemarketers, which anyone who’s ever been placed ‘on hold’ can probably relate to.

H&R Block is now using Watson, a high-functioning and intelligent robot, for much of its tax work.

Other particularly prominent cases can be seen in various sports, where referees and umpires are increasingly working alongside automated systems that can usually do their jobs better than they can.

But, there are certain jobs that are safe from robot replacements. At least, for now.

Jobs in consultancy, politics or at the top tables of business are among those that perhaps seem safest from a robotic revolution.

They’re the ones that rely on complex, human thought patterns, the intricacies of our brains and the uniqueness of our personalities.

So, jobs like therapists, nurses and any kind of caregivers aren’t likely to disappear any time soon, as they require compassion, consideration, instinct and relationship skills.

Another distinctly human strength is strategic and critical thinking. While advanced robots have already shown themselves to be talented at trivia, or to be able to file sample taxes and crunch sometimes quite complex numbers, their abilities largely amount to data processing.

While the less personable telemarketers will be – and often already have been – replaced, most other sales roles look set to stay as they are. Particularly those focused on selling unique, expensive or luxury items, and including roles as either a manager or agent of another person (perhaps an athlete or musician).

We’re still a very long way from our courts of law becoming computerised – with many assuring that they never will be. In particular, lawyers need a vast understanding of the human condition. They need to be able to react under pressure, speak persuasively, build a complex case, present evidence, and convince a jury – which, at this stage, we’re assuming are still definitely human.

There are still two fields even less likely to be taken over by robots; sport and the arts. Elite athletes needn’t fret over claims of an automated uprising, because being an athlete essentially requires you to be a human. It’s what makes sport fun to watch, challenging to play, and generally worthwhile. It’s all about what can (or can’t) be achieved by the human body. Throw a pre-programmed, designed-to-win robot into the mix, and a lot of what makes sport interesting instantly disappears. The unexpected highs; the heart-breaking lows; the drama of the competition. If every competitor was perfect, it’d all go to script and no one would watch. 

So, if you’re a mathematician, engineer or computer programmer, you could soon be styling yourself as an artist as well.

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