Five Jobs Robots Will Take First

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Consider what it would have been like to have been employed as a carriage driver when the automobile was invented. Or to have worked in the paper map division of Rand McNally when smartphones began telling us where to go?

These questions came to mind while I was attending the BNP Paribas Tennis tournament last week. While watching a player challenge an ‘out’ call, I asked my wife why we need a tennis umpire when every debatable decision is made by video replay! As times change, so do our jobs (and how we do them!). Today’s post is a rehash of a brilliant article by Shelley Palmer of The Palmer Group. In it, he highlights five jobs that are moving from humans to robots. And stay tuned because next week I’ll speak about the five jobs robots will take last! Enjoy!


1. Middle Management

If your main job function is taking a number from one box in Excel and putting it in another box in Excel and writing a narrative about how the number got from place to place, robots are knocking at your door. Any job where your “special and unique” knowledge of the industry is applied to divine a causal relationship between numbers in a matrix is going to be replaced first. Be ready.

2. Commodity Salespeople (Ad Sales, Supplies, etc.)

Unless you sell dreams or magic or negotiate using special perks, bribes or other valuable add-ons that have nothing to do with specifications, price and availability, start thinking about your next gig. Machines can take so much cost out of any sales process (request for proposal, quotation, order and fulfillment system), it is the fiduciary responsibility of your CEO and the board to hire robots. You’re fighting gravity … get out!

3. Report Writers, Journalists, Authors & Announcers

Writing is tough. But not report writing. Machines can be taught to read data, pattern match images or video, or analyze almost any kind of research materials and create a very readable (or announceable) writing. Text-to-speech systems are evolving so quickly and sound so realistic, I expect both play-by-play and color commentators to be put out of work relatively soon – to say nothing about the numbered days of sports or financial writers. You know that great American novel you’ve been planning to write? Start now, before the machines take a creative writing class.

4. Accountants & Bookkeepers

Data processing probably created more jobs than it eliminated, but machine learning–based accountants and bookkeepers will be so much better than their human counterparts, you’re going to want to use the machines. Robo-accounting is in its infancy, but it’s awesome at dealing with accounts payable and receivable, inventory control, auditing and several other accounting functions that humans used to be needed to do. Big Four auditing is in for a big shake-up, very soon.

5. Doctors

This may be one of the only guaranteed positive outcomes of robots’ taking human jobs. The current world population of 7.3 billion is expected to reach 8.5 billion by 2030, 9.7 billion in 2050 and 11.2 billion in 2100, according to a new UN DESA (United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs) report. In practice, if everyone who ever wanted to be a doctor became one, we still would not have enough doctors.

The good news is that robots make amazing doctors, diagnosticians and surgeons. According to Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, IBM’s Watson is teaming up with a dozen US hospitals to offer advice on the best treatments for a range of cancer, and also helping to spot early-stage skin cancers. And ultra-precise robo-surgeons are currently used for everything from knee replacement surgery to vision correction. This trend is continuing at an incredible pace. I’m not sure how robodoc bedside manner will be, but you could program a “Be warm and fuzzy” algorithm and the robodoc would act warm and fuzzy. (Maybe I can get someone to program my human doctors with a warm and fuzzy algorithm?) (Shelley Palmer)

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Dr. Jeff Suderman is a futurist, consultant, and professor who works in the field of organizational development. He partners with clients to improve culture, leadership, teamwork, organizational alignment, strategy and organizational future-readiness. He resides in Palm Desert, California. Twitter: @jlsuderman Email:

Source – Shelly Palmer

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  1. Mike Henry

    Interesting that these are all white-collar professions. Is there a reason you see those jobs being replaced before many factory workers, fast food cashiers, or relatively automate-able blue-collar work?

    It seems that the robots are very good at crunching data and suggesting a best course of action, but are not as good at clearly defining the requirements for a given problem. As an example, see Cowen’s book Average is Over, where he discussed how the best computers in the world can’t consistently beat a human + computer pairing.

    • Jeff Suderman

      Thanks for the great insights and book recommendation Mike. I think that many already see the blue-collar jobs being automated. Therefore, the purpose of this is to debunk the myth that job safety is found by leaving the blue collar industry.

      My antidote to being automated is developing the ability to synthesize. Technology is becoming effective at complicated but not complex (see

  2. Joseph

    Thanks for the heads-up. I have a few non-fiction titles at conception stages. I hope to smuggle them in before the robot writers steal my thunder.

  3. Jeff Suderman

    That sounds exactly like something a robot would say Joseph!?! Or is it JoeBot?


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