7 Industries That Will Be Taken Over by AI and Robots (And How to Adapt)

Posted: 12/20/2017


December 15, 2017

7 Industries That Will Be Taken Over by AI and Robots (And How to Adapt)

Robots are taking over. You can see it already happening at McDonald's with its automated ordering kiosks, or your nearest supermarket with its self-checkout machine. Soon, it will be normal to see driverless cars and people walking their robot dogs outside. And this is only the beginning. With advancements in technology, many jobs typically performed by humans are being replaced by artificial intelligence (AI) and robots. Below are seven industries that are significantly impacted by automation:  

1. Transportation

Fully autonomous vehicles, or self-driving cars, will be hitting the road in the next few years. In fact, personal self-driving cars are expected to be on the market by 2018, with commercial applications not far behind. Self-driving cars will gain even more popularity as Uber plans to acquire 24,000 autonomous Volvo SUVs.

This means you can expect to see more people being dropped off at places without a driver in the near future. Although this may put many transportation workers out of business, Morgan Stanley predicts that driverless cars will save the U.S. $1.3 trillion a year by 2035 to 2050, for a global annual saving of $5.6 trillion. As well, self-driving cars will help improve transportation in many ways including, decreasing the risks of accidents, alleviate traffic congestion, and lower energy costs.

Self-driving vehicles also extend to aircrafts. In 2017, the U.S. military and its Defense Advanced Research Agency (DARPA) has announced the successful simulated flight and landing of a Boeing 737 by an AI robot co-pilot named ALIAS. The U.S. military believes automated aircrafts may improve mission safety and success rates.

However, when it comes to aeroplanes, automation isn’t new. Commercial aeroplanes have been already run on autopilot for a long time; pilots are still responsible for providing all the commands and monitoring various conditions and situations, including tracking fuel consumption. Nevertheless, with developments in AI, this could change in the future.  

2. Manufacturing

It’s no surprise that manufacturing industries made the list. From 2000 to 2010, Canada and U.S. have seen 5.6million factory jobs disappeared in which a whopping 85 percent of job losses resulted from automation, compared with only 13 percent of job losses due to international trade.

Manufacturing is one of the first industries to use AI robots to assemble products and package them for shipment. These are used to assemble more complicated items, including electronics, cars, and home appliances. Not only this, these robots have drastically increased manufacturing output in the last years. A 2016 New York Times article found that workers produced 47 percent more than 20 years ago, with technology being the main reason for the resurgence.

3. Packaging and shipping

In addition to manufacturing, packaging and shipping industries have incorporated robots for some time to make distribution more effective. When it comes to shipping, Amazon is at the forefront of automation. In 2014, the e-commerce company began rolling out robots to its warehouses, using machines developed by Kiva Systems, a company Amazon bought for $775 million two years earlier. Today, Amazon has over 100,000 robots in its warehouses worldwide and intends to add much more to the mix.

4. Customer service

If you recently ordered a hamburger at McDonald's or have purchased groceries from a supermarket chain, it’s likely that you have seen an automated kiosk or self-checkout (so that you don’t have to interact with a human). Cashiers, retail salespeople, and food counter attendants are among the jobs that are at a high risk of being affected by automation, according to a 2016 report by the Brookfield Institute for Innovation + Entrepreneurship. In fact, it is predicted that more than 23,000 customer services will be deployed worldwide by 2022.

While AI customer service agents don’t interact the same way as humans do, it’s becoming far more advanced. For instance, automated customer service company Digital Genius is developing chatbots that could harness natural language processing and machine learning to create friendly robots that could imitate human speech. Very soon, you won’t be able to tell whether you’re having a conversation with a real person or an AI.

5. Finance

Many financial services companies are turning to AI to keep up with an increasing amount of financial data. Robots can use predictive systems and market data to forecast stock trends and manage finances, more efficiently than humans. On top of this, financial advice is being automated with a growing trend towards “robo-advisers” to provide suggestions for simple financial problems. Automation is also replacing certain accounting jobs, in which it can be used to record journal entries, conduct ledger account reconciliation, perform intercompany transactions, maintain accounting master data.

6. Healthcare

Medical and pharmaceutical companies are using AI machines to complete a variety of medical procedures, such diagnose diseases, deliver anaesthesia, and perform surgery. In some cases, such as with IBM’s Watson, these machines are more accurate in their tasks than human doctors. As well, some robot caregivers are cropping up to help with patient recovery. For example, Robear, designed by scientists from the Sumitomo Riko Company in Japan, can aid patients in walking or getting out of bed.    

7. Agriculture

With the world population expected to reach 8.5 billion by 2030, sustainability is becoming an increasing challenge. However, many sustainability issues could be addressed by developments in AI and automation. For instance, a startup called AgriData is developing a way for machines to manage the productivity of its fields, by scanning trees to pinpoints fruits and determine their yield.

Drones are also gaining popularity in agriculture, replacing the use of satellite imaging to get detailed maps of farmland—a very time-consuming process. Drones equipped with multispectral sensors can survey land, take images, and reveal the fertility of specific patches of soil, the number of water crops need, among other valuable information.

As well, some automated farm vehicles such as automated tractors are removing traditionally gruelling labour and can work 24/7 without human input.   

Are robots taking over?

Although AI and robots are replacing traditional jobs in many of our top industries, they are also creating new kinds of work in which humans will supply digital services to complement AI. According to a Forbes article, while America has lost 7-million manufacturing jobs in recent decades, it has also added some 53-million jobs in services. In addition, robotics technicians will be needed. So you can be reassured that we won’t run out of jobs in the future.

As John Donahoe, CEO of ServiceNow says, “Technology replaces and creates. It replaces manual work and creates new opportunities—new tasks if you will. And productivity creates growth, which creates new kinds of work. It is a virtuous cycle.”

AI and robots help free us from manual labour and “jobs that no one really enjoys doing,” giving more opportunity to be creative and innovative in our work. Our role is to adapt to these industry trends and develop new skills, to remain competitive in the labour market.