Six of the top occupations already declining due to automation

Automation, in all its varied forms from simple robotics to more advanced machine learning and even artificial intelligence, is going to be the future of vast swathes of industries.  

And while we may expect to see this change on assembly lines, it may come as a surprise the extent to which automation has already begun to cause a decline in many other occupations’ vacancies.

Below, we explore some of the top roles affected in the UK by technology’s change towards automation as per Adzuna’s Start of the Curve report.

Pharmacy Assistant

Automation’s influence on the job market isn’t always going to be as obvious as a robot in place of a person. In the case of roles such as pharmacy assistants, who’ve experienced an average monthly decline of 4.5 vacancies in the last two years, the change is most likely to come about as the result of pure software.

Robotics may play a lesser role, but occupations such as this, typically combining administrative work with customer service, are more likely to fall victim to the cost-cutting efficiency of programs that can handle the administrative role automatically.

Illustrator

Illustrators, though working in a creative field that may lead you to assume them irreplaceable my automated processes, are in a similar position to the pharmacy assistants. Though the creative nature may allow a certain amount of leeway and the top talent will likely maintain a level of demand, the occupation as a whole has seen a 4.36 average decline.

In part this is due to software getting smarter, essentially democratising the industry to lower the bar of entry. A combination of low-cost software and huge image databases are making it incredibly easy to create 2D images with relatively little skill and experience, while even the usually complex 3D is becoming steadily less laborious. Frame-by-frame lighting and shadow calculations that would have consumed the time of an illustrator can now be performed with relative ease by software.

Integrated circuit / application-specific integrated circuit (IC/ASIC) design engineer

In no small part, the almost surprising level of automation intrusion into industry is a result of the ever increasing speed at which technology advances. In the past, we may have said that for software to design an integrated circuit it would require full-fledged artificial intelligence.

And yet, these days, such a feat would be considered fairly normal in the realms of software capability. As observed in Adzuna’s report, this is something called the AI effect. “Douglas Hofstadter, an American professor of cognitive science, concisely expresses the AI effect by quoting Tesler’s Theorem: “AI is whatever hasn’t been done yet.””

Translator

There are cases, however, where the automation of roles is occurring more as the result of true AI. When a normal person wants a translation of a foreign language, they do not seek out a translator, they go to Google translate. The most well-known and, quite possibly, accurate translation software in the world, it also has the advantage of being free.

Having announced in November that the software has been upgraded with machine-learning capabilities designed to provide near-human levels of accuracy, Google is getting ever closer to the ideal of a universal translator that you can carry in your pocket. In just a few years, human translators may function only for truly specialist tasks or be irrelevant entirely.

Writer

The pure creativity of a human writer is not yet facing real challenge. For the foreseeable future at least, your bestsellers will still be brought to you by Stephen King and not IBM’s Watson. However, outside of the realms of fiction, automated writers are already making a significant impact.

The Associated Press already uses software to write corporate earnings reports and Yahoo uses similar technology to create fantasy sports reports for its users. Though novels may not yet be in their wheelhouse, such software has proven adept at building factual narratives from structured data sources.

IT support analyst

It is perhaps ironic that soon we will exclusively have technology tell us how to fix other technology. Although other factors are eating into the need for IT support, notably a working demographic that is increasingly comfortable with technology, and a rise in the popularity of people making use of their own devices at work, the principle change that is likely to see automation take over is the development of sophisticated customer support chatbots.

Although human support staff will likely continue in some form, given many peoples’ preference for talking to an actual person rather than a machine, it would be unsurprising if chatbots became the predominant form of first-line support.

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Astronauts have been working and living on the ISS – a structure made up of 15 connected modules that floats 250 miles above Earth – for the past 16 years.

Now with Street View regular citizens can explore the station, and go everywhere from the sleeping quarters to where the space suits are kept. This is the first time Street View has ventured beyond planet Earth, and for the benefit of viewers the Street View feature also comes annotated, with handy little dots you can click on to explain what everything does, which is another first.

“In the six months that I spent on the International Space Station, it was difficult to find the words or take a picture that accurately describes the feeling of being in space,” said European Space Agency astronaut Thomas Pesquet in a blog post.

“Working with Google on my latest mission, I captured Street View imagery to show what the ISS looks like from the inside, and share what it’s like to look down on Earth from outer space.”

In his blog post, Pesquet goes on to describe how because of the constraints associated with living and working in space, it wasn’t possible to collect Street View using Google’s usual methods.

Instead, the Street View team worked with NASA at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas and Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama to design a gravity-free method of collecting the imagery using DSLR cameras and equipment already on the ISS.

Still photos were captured in space that were sent down to Earth where they were stitched together to create panoramic 360 degree imagery of the ISS.

Images courtesy of Google

“There are a lot of obstacles up there, and we had limited time to capture the imagery,” recalled Pesquet.

“Oh, and there’s that whole zero gravity thing.”

Pesquet ended his blog post by revealing the inspiration behind the Street View and ISS collaboration.

“Looking at Earth from above made me think about my own world a little differently, and I hope that the ISS on Street View changes your view of the world too.” said Pesquet.