September 07, 2015
Some Jobs Headed For Extinction

See The 5 jobs look set for the biggest drops : "Fallers" who cut down trees are headed for a 43% drop in employment by 2022. Lumberjack is not a good career choice. The 8,000 people who are still left running movie theater projectors ("motion picture projectionist") are, unsurprisingly, in a quickly shrinking occupation. Of course movies are going digital and automated. Here are some more jobs that will be replaced by robots.

Some jobs are shrinking because the technology already exists and capital investments are gradually sweeping thru and replacing old equipment with new equipment that does not need humans. But some other occupations are kinda like in a waiting room. The tech to replace them is under development but not yet ready for mass deployment. As examples I think of fast food restaurant cooks and counter help (the Eatsa automat shows the future), commercial drivers (e.g. long haul truck, taxi, bus), and the people who harvest fruits and vegetables. My guess is automated cooking robots start taking over restaurant cooking jobs before autonomous trucks take over long haul trucking jobs. But both will be in the same state as movie projectionists by 2025: the human phase-out will be under way. By 2040? Almost all gone. Human-staffed restaurants for the upper class will survive as a niche market, though perhaps with only a single chef controlling machines and humans as wait staff.

For some types of jobs the only thing left to speculate about is when their phase-out begins. When do the first autonomous taxis hit the road? When do the first autonomous long haul trucks hit the road? Which comes first? When will a tractor sweep around a cauliflower field and pick all the cauliflower with no human involvement? Or when will Wal-Mart or Target (or perhaps a Japanese chain) deploy the first automated shelf-stocking robot? Or how about when will the first robot empty all the trash cans at desks in an office?

What jobs do you see around your workplace or your town that you do not think will last 20 years?

We have finally arrived at the era when robots extensively take over work which historically has been done by humans. The robots have done this out of sight in factories. In the next phase they will take over work in all areas of the economy. The next 20 years promises to be interesting.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2015 September 07 01:20 PM 

BernardZ said at September 8, 2015 6:31 AM:

I have often thought that the first visit to a doctor when someone is sick could be done by a robot now. You could tell it your symptoms, it would take a few readings and check its database and give you some medical advise.

Check a website to get a feel of how it could work.

dscott said at September 10, 2015 10:06 AM:


TJA said at September 10, 2015 11:18 AM:

In theory, instead of hiring illegal aliens to drive mowers around your yard and bust your sprinkler heads, the mowers could be automated, and the contractor lays out a grid for the job and lets the mowers go from his truck and picks them up in half an hour, or whatever, like companies like John Deere are doing with combines right now. The real trick will be getting the robot mowers to vote Democrat.

I don't think self driving trucks are very close though, I think automated chefs are much closer. Currently those Google cars use the same tech as a cruise missile, i.e. a 3D digital map of the road, and all of those millions of miles they have driven are on the same 10k miles of road. Cruise missiles don't have to worry about hitting puppies and children, doing that is kind of the point.

Mtm1259 said at September 10, 2015 11:35 AM:

After watching my wife order a Ceasar salad, hold the anchovies, double croutons, fresh ground pepper, extra parmasen and the dressing on the side I have my doubts about automated fast food.

Mtm1259 said at September 10, 2015 11:57 AM:

I think a far greater risk to medical jobs is digital transfer to overseas practitioners. Any image bases medical practice, such as pathology or radiology can have the images sent to India to be interpreted much more cheaply than by an American physician. Also, high dollar surgeries can be done well and less expensively by flying the patient to Thailand, Brazil or India. As far as initial medicine visits, I think "physician extenders" such as PAs or FNPs will still tip the balance in favor of real people for quite some time.

Rocketeer said at September 10, 2015 1:37 PM:

My father, an engineer at Ford, told me in the 1980s that in the future manufacturing plants would consist of robots and two living employees: a man, and a dog. The man's job will be to feed the dog. The dog's job will be to keep the man away from the robots.

Dave said at September 10, 2015 5:39 PM:

Jews have been selectively breeding for high IQ for over 1000 years, yet the average Jew is only moderately bright, not a genius. It's a very slow process because children keep reverting toward their racial mean -- 85 for blacks, 100 for whites, 107 for Japanese, and 115 for Jews.

While robots lack general intelligence, on the specific tasks they're programmed to perform, their IQ is around 110 and increasing all the time. So we've created a system where people below 90 live on welfare, people in the 90-110 range get make-work jobs in government and academia to make them feel important, and people over 110 get the real jobs, such as programming the robots. If you think IQ isn't real, try explaining C pointer arithmetic to a poli-sci major!

Now suppose you're in the robot-programmer class, and because of mean-reversion your kids each have a 10% chance of becoming robot-programmers, and a 90% chance of becoming bureaucrats or welfare bums. Would you even bother having kids against such odds?

M. Report said at September 10, 2015 6:13 PM:

What to do with all those extra people ?

Employ them in back-up communities designed
to provide the basic necessities for a nation
whose 21st century high-tech economy experiences
a glitch and goes away for a month...or a year.

Lots of land needs to be 'scaped, and planted in
carefully rotated crops of low maintenance foods
and ground cover, with river-fed irrigation and
drinking water systems; Plenty of room for that
in the mid-continental states.

Housing needs to be built and maintained, mostly
mothballed, but some of it used for vacation resorts.

Call it 'Arcadia'.

Wandas said at September 10, 2015 8:32 PM:

Mtm1259 said at September 10, 2015 11:35 AM:
After watching my wife order a Ceasar salad, hold the anchovies, double croutons, fresh ground pepper, extra parmasen and the dressing on the side I have my doubts about automated fast food.

That is precisely the sort of thing a machine could do particularly well, and better than most waitstaff could accurately get it to the cook or automated chef to perform.

It's like the old joke about the internet, and the guy wanting to know about having sex in the early evening in Pittsburgh with a sheep that is on fire, and the reply is, "state breed of sheep". Machines do details, remember details and pass details along the communications line WAY better than people. The problem with your wife's order in a machine-driven restaurant wouldn't be getting her order right. It would probably be bugging her over how MUCH pepper and precisely how MANY extra grammes of cheese.

PD Quig said at September 10, 2015 9:11 PM:

And how long until the machines are organized by the NLRB?

Randall Parker said at September 12, 2015 8:47 AM:


A robotic mower could mow all the houses on a street. Just go from one to the next. So the labor costs in delivering the mower get pretty low. A truck with a couple dozen mowers and one driver could go around, drop off a mower on each street, and by the time all mowers are delivered go back the first street to pick up the first mower. It'll be done. The mowers could run all day and just one person could keep 20-30-40 mowers busy.


Agreeing with Wandas. Robots can do variations with a far lower error rate than human chefs.

Radiologists in India: This is a temporary phase. The ML Ph.D.s are making big strides in machine vision. Image processing will decimate the ranks of radiologists.


Regression to the mean will be avoided by IVF and pre-implantation genetic testing to select the best embryo. Rather than regression to the mean people will be able to have kids smarter than them. This will make reproduction more attractive to smarter people.

Joseph Hertzlinger said at September 15, 2015 8:38 PM:

If you're a lumberjack that's not okay?

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