Is your job safe from automation?

20 March 2018 - 15:08
By Sowetan LIVE
Is your job safe from automation?
Image: 123RF/artinspiring Is your job safe from automation?

Are you ready for a robotic revolution?

In a country like South Africa where there are over 5 million unemployed people, will your job still exist in 10 years time?

Technology is redefining the workforce with a combination of intelligent technology and human ingenuity.

According to a new Accenture report, one in three jobs in South Africa (5.7 million jobs) is currently at risk of total automation.

Although not all jobs can be replaced, a new skill set will have to be developed in order to keep up with this new growing workforce.

Both blue and white-collar jobs are at risk.

The jobs of clerks, cashiers, tellers, construction, mining and maintenance workers all fall into this category.

Jobs that are harder to automate include work like influencing people, teaching people, programming, real-time discussions, advising people, negotiating and cooperating with co-workers.

By 2025, jobs at risk in South Africa will reduce to 20 percent as the workforce evolves with new digital demands across occupations.

Jobs that have and will be replaced by automation: 

1. Last year McDonalds announced that they would be replacing 2,500 human cashiers with digital kiosks  across America. The touch-screen technology is meant to speed up the ordering process and give people more control over customizing their food, while reducing opportunities for human error.

2. Nedbank launched South Africa's first humanoid robot, Pepper, at its digital branch at the Sandton Gautrain station in Johannesburg. The robot can be programmed to recognise voice, principal human emotions, chat with customers and answer questions.

3. The construction industry's newest innovation is The SAM100 – an on-site bricklaying robot capable of laying close to 3,000 bricks per day. SAM, short for Semi-Automated Mason, was engineered by New York-based Construction Robotics to “assist with the repetitive and strenuous task of lifting and placing each brick.”

4.  The Gauteng Department of Health in collaboration with Right to Care, and Right ePharmacy have launched the Pharmacy Dispensing Unit (PDU). First of its kind in Africa, the PDU works like an ATM for medication. It was developed to ensure accurate dispensing and quick collection.

5.  Last month Dolce & Gabbana used drones to carry handbags down the runway instead of models. 

In the long run robots will cost companies less money than hiring humans and higher profit margins will be reached.

Noted for being more accurate and never getting tired, robots are certainly here to stay and are expanding their capabilities everyday.

While there are many positives with automation, there are also negative aspects.

Notably an increase in unemployment is a major concern and at the top of the cons list but another is the fact that although robots may have AI (Artificial Intelligence), they are not as intelligent as humans.

They can never improve their jobs outside their pre-defined programming because they simply cannot think for themselves.

Robots have no sense of emotions or conscience. They lack empathy and this is one major disadvantages of having an emotionless workplace.

Yesterday it was reported that a self-driving Uber car killed a Pedestrian in Arizona, USA. An emergency backup driver was behind the wheel but the car was on auto mode when the woman was still struck and killed. Companies are now expanding testing on these driverless cars.