AI-driven automation is poised to impact a wide spectrum of jobs, ranging from blue-collar roles like drivers and manufacturing workers to white-collar positions, including copywriters and customer service representatives. The common thread among these positions is their routine, repetitive nature. This shift towards automation, exemplified by AI programs like ChatGPT, is happening rapidly, raising concerns about job displacement. Even creative roles may not be immune. While retraining is an option, individuals should consider acquiring skills that AI cannot easily replicate, such as welding or plumbing, which have substantial job growth projections. The threat posed by AI varies across professions, with some facing replacement rather than expansion.
Your job is endanger from artificial intelligence
Lift that tie-rod, attach pin, let go of tie-rod, wait. Lift the tie-rod, attach pin, let go, wait…. Do that for eight hours. Go home—transit time approximately 45 minutes. Eat dinner, watch TV, have a beer, go to bed. Get up, eat breakfast, drive to work, lift tie-rod….
Sounds great, doesn’t it?
During World War I, the Army hired women to calculate artillery trajectories. In the 1930s, the WPA (Works Progress Administration) hired human calculators to support engineers. Women were given the work because it was viewed as a dull, low-status activity. Men with elite educations didn’t want any part in it. So, women, blacks, Jews, and others who were routinely denied job opportunities got hired. The human computer jobs were seen as rote and de-skilled. In the 1940s to 1960s, woman employed as secretaries were referred to as word processors. They all lost their jobs to automation.
Robots can put twice as many pins into tie-rods and do it 24/7, and never unionize, take breaks, ask for a raise, go vacation, or become pregnant. Computers are powerful, complicated, and used by everyone. So are word processors (the non-human variety).
Automation has lifted the burden of tedious, repetitive, career-thwarting work to being an enabler.
AI systems promise to be an even greater enabler. Yes, they will likely eliminate some of the routine jobs, and do better at them than their human predecessors. The same movies will be made, articles written, and cause hand-wringing because the AI did such a good job of it.
Those unwilling to be retrained will find themselves looking for non-challenging jobs that don’t require much education or ambition. Such jobs, if any will still exist, will not be very rewarding, nor pay well.
The lower levels of society will, as always, be the first to feel it, but the ramifications of AI replacement will reach into the sanctuaries of the white collar, creative, and academic ivory towers too. AI substitution of conventional workers could, and probably will, sweep across a wide range of jobs, from car, truck, and bus drivers to various manufacturing and warehouse workers. Why? Routine, repetitive jobs. That includes copywriters and customer service representatives who write to a template or read from a script, respectively—robotic behavior with no originality, no intimacy. This applies to anyone doing a routine, repetitive job, from data entry to retail clerks, as well as rotoscopes, copywriters, and people who fancy themselves artists but do little more than paint by number, filling in background panels for the creative designer.
It’s scary, widespread, and appears to be happening faster than retraining programs can correct. The fear is sparked by AI programs like ChatGPT and its human-like responses. In Japan, due to labor shortages and a fascination with technology, robots are being deployed as greeters and information kiosks in retail stores—is Walmart next?
A chatbot drawing on a company’s internal data, from service records to product descriptions, can probably find more and better information faster than a human can, and a chatbot will never say, I have to check with my manager.
By 2030, just about every menial, repetitious job performed by a human will be done by a robot with an AI backing. How many people reading this fear their job will be taken over by some AI derivative? And if not, why not? What makes you invulnerable to an AI replacement? If you answered maybe to the first question, then probably you will be replaced.
If you thought you were going to lose your career-building job to a robot, what would you do? Plead to your boss? Complain to your shop steward? Ask your congressperson to intervene? Buy 10 Lotto tickets a week? Change careers? None of the above, just watch TV and wait for your Social Security to kick in?
As automation has replaced menial tasks and is threatening to replace creative tasks (if it’s actually creative, isn’t it an oxymoron to call it a task?), the threatened workers have one choice—go to school.
School doesn’t mean learn how to do NNL (neural network languages), ML (machine learning), and LLM (large language model) coding. It means learn a skill that isn’t threatened by AI. For instance, the welding industry will face a shortage of about 360,000 welders by 2027, according to the American Welding Society. There will be 90,000 average welding jobs to be filled annually between 2023–2027 due to industry growth and anticipated attrition due to retirement. Employment of plumbers, pipe fitters, and steamfitters is projected to grow 2% from 2022 to 2032, about as fast as the average for all occupations. On average, about 42,600 openings for plumbers, pipe fitters, and steamfitters are projected each year over the decade. And, there are around 1,365,500 software developer jobs available in the US, and this number is expected to increase by 284,100 in 2028.
Compare that to the much talked-about threat to the copywriter: Over the next 10 years, it is expected the US will need 14,300 copywriters. That number is based on 10,000 additional copywriters and the retirement of 4,300 existing copywriters. And as you go down the list of jobs that are threatened by AI, the job openings are replacement jobs—not spurred by growth. So all the routine and repetitive jobs won’t disappear overnight, but there will be fewer of them every year—think of saddlemakers and candlemakers; they are still with us, but do you know any?
Another way to think about it is your personal behavior. If you are like most information workers, you have a collection of macros that you launch whenever a repetitious job or function is called for—you’ve automated your work. As I type this, my spelling and grammatical errors are corrected, or at least questioned. Am I about to be replaced?
If there is a summary to this rant, an AI might have generated it. If I copied anyone’s ideas, AI might have reworded it and gotten me out of plagiarism jail. Is that a threat or an aid?
Think of how many phone calls you make to various service organizations like hotels, the DMV, car rentals, the phone company, etc., and your first point of contact is an AI running an LLM and talking to you almost like a real person. That’s possible because as special as you’d like to think you are (and yes, you really are…), your questions, desires, and requests are the same as the thousand others that came before you that hour.
So, AI is going to replace some jobs, just like the first wave of automation in the ’60s to ’90s did. You can freak out about that or get ahead of it and use it to your advantage. And you can, really—you can change careers. Remember, you were looking for a job when you came to this place.