There’s no question that many of the world’s routine tasks are now being subjected to automation, either through robots or software. Now, the next frontier is already opening up: the automation or robotization of non-routine tasks — affecting jobs that once seemed immune to automation.
“The next frontier for automation is non-routine work,” Matt Beane, researcher at MIT’s Sloan School of Management, pointed out in a recent interview in VentureBeat. “Most automation will be intangible. Once you have got good [artificial intelligence], it’s replicable at almost zero cost.”
Many jobs and skills that just a few years ago seemed rock-solid are now candidates for robotization and automation. This may mean managing tasks from a remote location via an avatar-type engagement, or having intelligent software perform an interaction. However, it doesn’t mean these jobs are going away, but being augmented by automation — requiring less manual work or intervention — or assistance from others — to accomplish. It means professionals need to identify ways in which automation can help them increase the value they are providing.
In addition to Beane’s observations, here are some leading, and sometimes surprising, examples:
- Surgeons: When a surgeon uses a Da Vinci surgical robot, “if they stray outside the surgical field, the robot can be programmed to resist,” says Beane. “They get force feedback on the manipulators. Even the best surgeon in the world can be told by the robot, multiple times during an operation ‘You shouldn’t be doing that.’”
- Journalists and technical writers: Automated article-writing programs have already been deployed for sports stories. The next frontier is generating summary reports that involve a lot of data.
- Repair crews: This is the case, especially for dangerous jobs, such as going into areas with dangerous radioactivity. For example, Beane pointed out how “aerial and ground-based robots were used in the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster to help assess system and structural integrity and evaluate demolition plans.”
- Customer care representatives: Interactive voice response (IVR) systems are now highly sophisticated, and are employed to handle most routine inquiries