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The Rise of your Robot Successor

Research from the software provider Infosys seems to show that people who are just starting out in their careers have a rather gloomy outlook on their future.

And the reason for this melancholy? The unstoppable rise of robots and the implementation of new or improved technology, such as Artificial Intelligence. The global study reveals that nearly half of young people fear that machines will replace them at work within a decade. The fear is greater in developed markets than developing – young people in countries such as Brazil and India were broadly optimistic about their future.

In reality the process of automation has been carried out since time immemorial, as we have found technology to replace some of the more mundane or inefficient tasks at hand. After all, what was the invention of the wheel other than a transport solution, or the development of the flint arrowhead other than a more efficient way of finding food?

AI does represent something of a greater challenge than previous developments in mechanisation and automation that led to the rise (and then paradoxically the fall) of the UK’s industrial revolution. It’s no longer jobs that can be thought of as manual that are under threat – the professions are too.

Advances in medical technology and the development of IBM’s Watson, which can analyse patient data and come up with diagnoses, are shaking up the health sector; meanwhile algorithms are rapidly replacing the traditional trades within financial institutions. The stethoscope of the doctor and the bowler hat of the City represent two of the most long-standing images we have of the ‘professions’.

And what of the advertising industry (which even naysayers must admit is now a ‘profession given that the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising was granted Chartered status by the Privy Council last week)? There is some solace to be found in a study by researchers at Oxford University and Deloitte from last year, which revealed that there is just a 33 per cent chance of people with the job title ‘advertising accounts manager’ or ‘creative director’ seeing their jobs become automated. This compares to 99 per cent for telephone salespeople and 97 per cent for finance officers. Sadly, however it doesn’t match up with publicans wit a 0.4 per cent or speech therapists at 0.5 per cent.

Nonetheless as advertising is considered a low risk profession – and the news is even better for graphic designers with just a 5 per cent chance and web developers at 22 per cent – there is even the chance that automation could improve our working lives.

We all have parts of our job that get in the way of doing what we’d really like to be doing. I’m thinking of filling in timesheets, filing, proof reading. If these chores were automated then it would be possible for people to work smarter and maybe even work part-time but still achieve the same results.

Design, web design and development are already becoming much more ‘automated’ than it was 10 years ago. Technology is already helping designers – Photoshop has automate settings; we can download free vectors, and icons, and PSD files and hi res photographs and we can cut and paste code from any website or app. Templates have freed up designers.

Equally, clients even want to buy automated design processes so that everything looks the same and they don’t need to go to a designer or developer every time.

While younger people who are still fresh into their careers might seem frightened of what the future holds, I’m looking forward to the robots taking over my job so that I can get on with the part that only a human can do.