COVID-19 INFORMATION What you need to know about the coronavirus if you are living in Japan or planning a visit.



What jobs will AI do within 20 years? Almost everything, it seems


Don’t worry if you’re a psychiatrist, a nail artist or a door-to-door seller of cosmetics. If you’re a tax accountant, on the other hand, or a train driver, or a patent attorney, a degree of uneasiness regarding your future is in order.

Josei Seven (July 5) tells of a 20-year-old student it calls “A-kun.” A tax accountant is precisely what he was studying to be, until over lunch one day a friend said, “It won’t be long, you know, before tax accounting will be handled by artificial intelligence.” This gave A-kun pause. “I was in shock. Was it worthwhile continuing my studies?” He spoke to his parents. “If that’s the case,” said his father, “maybe you’d better start looking for an ordinary job.”

What “ordinary job” even means, with AI and robots set to replace humans in so many fields, is up in the air. A 2015 Oxford University study listed jobs most likely and least likely to vanish within 20 years. Tax accounting and train driving topped the vanishing list, 99.8 percent of each projected to be handled by non-humans. It’s a list that job-seekers and employees alike can be forgiven for thinking includes just about everything the current generation of workers knows how to do. Drivers, supermarket staff, wrappers, bank clerks, school office workers, building superintendents, programmers, hotel staffers, garbage collectors and security guards are among those most at risk. Less so but by no means secure are carpenters, international bureaucrats and ramen chefs.

School teachers, on the other hand, will be pleased to know that, near-term at least, they are more or less irreplaceable, along with bartenders, surgeons, economists, sports instructors, pension fund managers, tour conductors and aroma therapists.

A-kun, Josei Seven finds, is far from alone. “Lately I’m being consulted by many worried students,” the magazine hears from a college job counselor. “They know automation has already come this far, and AI and robotics are evolving very fast. Will their chosen field be affected?”

Nor does actually having a job mean you’re out of danger. “To be honest, I think a robot could do my job,” says a 41-year-old painter.

“My boss tells us, ‘You guys will be out within 10 years,’” says a smart phone game programmer, whose age is not given but who is presumably younger.

Is the painter looking for another job? Is the programmer busy acquiring new, AI-friendly skills? The magazine doesn’t say, but one thing seems unavoidable in the not-very-long-term: skyrocketing unemployment. It’s the cost of progress. It may not be poverty-stricken unemployment, if schemes now being bruited come to fruition – like basic income, under which everyone, working or not, would receive an income sufficient to live on, if not necessarily to enjoy life on. But that won’t solve another problem: What will people do with themselves? Work can be a nuisance, but it does have the merit of keeping us busy. What will take its place?

It is interesting that topping the Oxford study’s list of safe occupations is psychiatry. This means either that the work requires a human touch that no artificially intelligent robot could emulate, or, alternatively, that demand for psychiatric treatment is about to soar. The latter interpretation seems not implausible.

© Japan Today

©2020 GPlusMedia Inc.

Login to comment

Don’t worry. When robots take over the workplace, no one will even notice.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

The 3 laws of Robotics.

1: A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.

2: A robot must obey the orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.

3:A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Laws.

I'd like to add a 4th...

4: A robot may not steal my job!

0 ( +0 / -0 )

We're not neck-deep in robots quite yet – there are currently just 1.75 robots for every 1,000 workers, with the number of American jobs permanently lost due to automation estimated to be no more than about 670,000, compared to a total of 145,798,000 jobs currently available in the US. Not sure about Nihon.

But some economists predict that figure to multiply another four times by 2025 to 5.25 robots per 1,000 humans, contributing to a potential 3.4 million lost jobs. A little scary.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Tax accountants and patent attorneys are probably some of the safest jobs since a.) they are highly regulated professions b.) the real service they provide is actually one of offloading liability rather than providing genuinely useful legal or tax advice.

Even if someone in your company's accounting department is an expert in tax, the reason you outsource the complex work is so that you, your insurance company, or your shareholders have someone to sue in the event that a horrible mistake is made.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Robots taking over is just twenty years in the future and always will be just twenty years in the future.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

I, for one, welcome our new AI overlords.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

We are past the inflection point where technological advances will continue to hurt the quality of life of the masses

1 ( +1 / -0 )

All jobs will be affected, because those who lose their jobs will no longer have money to pay for the services of those whose jobs are supposedly safe.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Suits me! I have better things to do than work to make OTHERS into billionaires. So let's get the GUARANTEED MINIMUM INCOME for one and all underway NOW!

0 ( +1 / -1 )

AI isnt actually intelligent only artificial. It will not be doing any job requiring thought or dealing with unknowns. Which is nearly every job. The AI path currently being followed is completely wrong, which is why AI will not advance beyond parroting humans and limits what it can do. However, AI helping humans be more productive is more likely So people should be prepared to deal with an AI helper because that could fit into nearly every job and if you dont have enough technical knowledge to at least participate, then you will be left behind.

For AI to completely take over a majority of jobs would require two advancements. The first is software, we humans do not "learn" by reviewing all possible situations to then determine the correct action is what everyone else did. Humans can derive actions from sparse information and usually get it right. Plus as we see already, AI sees what appears to be the same thing over and over, like an expletive word or a racist remark and decides that must be "right" this is an effect of AI not truly learning anything. The second change is hardware, Computers today are 1930s binary systems, simple yes but considering no known biological brain is binary, it is likely binary systems are simply not capable of AI or nature would have evolved the brain that way. So when someone invents a CPU which is more advanced than Binary systems, then maybe AI will work.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

@Andrew Topolski

Sorry, but you're wrong.

Quantum Computers already exist and are fully functional.

Every functional job will eventually be replaced, it's just a matter of how many decades or centuries from now.

People from the future either become AI programmers or establish their own business to avoid being replaced.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

It will be great to let robots do all the work as I get a guaranteed income and pursue my hobbies.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

i don’t think that in 20 years AI will do almost work in our life. Now, In japan there are a lot of problems such as not enough staff or personal expenses is high. So it is good AI can help this problems but if we use a lot of AI many people will lost they job and they will not have money to spend at hotel or any places. In japan many services companies are value the heart of hospitality which we say Omotenasi. If we eliminate hotel staffers, supermarket staff or any service staff it will be not possible to have person to person community. The wonderfulness of hospitality can not be experienced at AI. So I think just little AI technology to help people can do they work easy is good but change person to robot is not good. I’m a student and I will start work a little more so I hope that We will not rule over by AI.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Hopfully we can start by replacing politicians with them. Let's use the Diet as the world's first test case.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Login to leave a comment

Facebook users

Use your Facebook account to login or register with JapanToday. By doing so, you will also receive an email inviting you to receive our news alerts.

Facebook Connect

Login with your JapanToday account

User registration

Articles, Offers & Useful Resources

A mix of what's trending on our other sites