9 Jobs A Robot Can Do Instead of You (Slideshow)

Jobless claims have decreased to their lowest level in a month. This is good news, but tempered by the U.S. unemployment rate remaining at 8.3 percent for a second month. Could robots be the reason?

As Alex Hern writes in the New Statesman,we face a future of a “jobless recovery” not because of outsourcing work to China, not because of too many government regulations, but because there really are machines that, like Rosey the housekeeping robot in the Jetsons cartoon, can do tasks once thought only doable by humans.

Hern reviews an analysis of anew National Bureau of Economic Research working paper by theWashington Post’s Dylan Matthews. Since the 1980s, jobs that involve “routine” tasks, defined as “activities that can be performed by following a well-defined set of procedures,” have been disappearing. The labor market has is becoming increasingly polarized:

At one end of the market are non-routine cognitive jobs, “such as physicians, public relations managers, financial analysts, computer programmers, and economists” (and, one would hope, journalists), while at the other end are non-routine manual occupations “including janitors, gardeners, manicurists, bartenders, and home health aides”. Polarisation of the labour market comes from technological improvement replacing people in routine jobs, both manual and cognitive “secretaries, bank tellers, retail salespeople dressmakers, cement masons, and meat processing workers.”

Who needs a secretary when there’s email and automated phone trees, or a store clerk when you can scan the barcodes of the contents of your grocery cart?

Here are nine jobs that robots can do — which is to say, nine jobs that we humans may find ourselves shut out from and all too soon.

1. Writing Business Articles

Ushahidi in Forbes Magazine

Forbes.com now employs is using “a set of algorithms called ‘Narrative Science’ to write their business stories for them,” says Martha Gill in New Statesman. Noting that readers (and business journalists) are the “real victims here,” Gill comments:

“It is perhaps a little soon to say whether we’re on the threshold of a dystopian, faceless society ruled by automatons and powered by human slaves, but let’s just say a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”


Photo by whiteafrican via Flickr

2. Making Burritos

Eddy Burrito in Danshui

BurritoB0t, the creation of NYU grad student Marko Manriquez, enables you to order from your iPhone and applies the salsa and guacamole with sliders.


Photo by Prince Roy via Flickr

3. Bathing Senior Citizens in Japan

In Japan, robots help feed, bathe and otherwise care for the elderly. But senior citizens have been less than enthusiastic. The $4,300 “communication robot” ifbot can converse, sing and provide trivia quizzes — but nursing home residents prefer stuffed animals.


Video uploaded by diobeada via YouTube

4. Spying and Military Surveillance

Researchers at MIT, Harvard University and Seoul National University have created a squishable robot that can crawl, earthworm-like, across surfaces. It can be pounded with a hammer and stepped on and still keep moving. Able to makes it way through rough terrain or cram itself through tight spaces, roboworm could be the super soldier spy of the future.

Video uploaded by MIT News Office via YouTube

5. Picking Your Medication

Pharmacists and pharmacy technicians could become obsolete. Robots can do a better job sorting medication.

Video uploaded by ScriptPro Videos via YouTube

6. Handling Your Legal Affairs

Chuck, paralegal

Software exists that can handle the research, analysis, writing and arguing done by paralegals and lawyers and without accruing all those fees in billable hours.

Photo by Chuck Klein via Flickr

7. Grading Student Papers

Research Paper on Microsoft

As a former writing instructor, as little as I like the idea of a robot grading essays (and reportedly not doing a bad job), I can say that grading 60 essays about one scene in Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” can leave a human being feeling like as if she is a “grading machine.” I do, though, think that we human beings can pick up on things in student writing that robograder wouldn’t.

Photo by acordova via Flickr

8. Teaching Autistic Children

University of Hertfordshire researchers have created Kaspar the robot to help autistic children learn to communicate.

At the Madonna School, a faith-based school for children with disabilities in Omaha, two-foot tall Evvie Roboto is being used to teach social skills. Because Evie lacks the “facial expressions, vocal inflections and hand gestures that humans throw out with abandon,” and that can be very puzzling, and aggravating, to autistic children, researchers are hopeful that the robot can teach them social skills, after which they can learn to apply them to interactions with actual human beings.

Video uploaded by yootubealator via YouTube

9. Driving

Google is developing a car that drives itself; the self-driving car, controlled by computers, has gone 300,000 miles without a single accident.

Imagine an automated taxi in Manhattan and never having to have that awkward non-conversation with the driver again.

Personally, I would miss those. Call me old-fashioned: I do like human interaction.

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Video uploaded by Search Engine Land via YouTube

Photo by vera46


Malgorzata Zmuda
Malgorzata Zmuda4 years ago

To raczej ciekawostka, mam nadzieję, że jednak roboty nie zastąpią człowieka, nie chciałabym żyć w takim świecie.

Michael Kirkby
Michael Kirkby4 years ago

Then you wonder why the Elites want to reduce global population by 85-90% as of 2025. They want to download their brains and intelligence into a large computerized environment; to be called up into a Borg like vessel when they need to function in the 3D world. Most of us won't be necessary to them or their existence. 3D population will be monitored; controlled and only a select few will be allowed to breed to continue to maintain the production of food and necessary goods.

Cheryl I.
Past Member 4 years ago

Thank you for the article.

Melanie Victoria
Melanie Victoria4 years ago

While indoor plumbing, a washer and dryer for instance are technological advancements which save time, more often than not technological advancements are a headache. As with the example of the self checkout at the grocery store, generally they are not as efficient or expedient as a human. Additionally, self checkouts still require maintenance and supervision from humans. To further illustrate my point, books can be more efficient than a computer. For instance, books can be accessed without fancy equpiment, only require some light and your eyes, and depending on the book, can be transported anywhere. Additionally, books are more durable. They can be dropped, handled roughly and even sustain liquid damage. Liquid damage to a computer means almost certain death. Some mechanization and technological advancement is necessary to live comfortably, but it disturbs me that people uncritically assume that more mechanization means more comfort/ease in their lives when too often increased mechanization is a source of frustration and annoyance.

Dorothy N.
Dorothy N.4 years ago

Hi, Krisi W., you do realize that replacing 70% of the remaining jobs with robots entails the 70% of people not having a job starving to death on the street along with those already unable to find work, right?

Although I suppose automated pick-up of the randomly scattered corpses and dying for disposal might be too tricky and there might be some low-paying jobs created doing that.

The point is to save industry having to pay people wages and benefits at all, not to make life better for the bottom 80% - and actually higher, if lawyers and such are to replaced as well.

Although the replacement of CEOs would no doubt initially result in their getting paid millions for nothing, in the end, they'd logically be found disposable as well, and there'd be an automated world with a few surviving families owning it all - and having nobody left alive to sell anything to - so yes, in the end, potential freedom from labour for all of remaining humanity, if they could survive OK in the bunkers shielding them from the hell they're making of the Earth, lol.

Industrialization was supposed to bring us all prosperity and reduce labourING for all, not suck everything up to the top few percent - so we know where this is going.

Cyryl W.
Cyryl W.4 years ago

Writings by robots... This explains a lot.

Krisi Wheeler
Krisi Wheeler4 years ago

More than 70% of jobs could be replaced by machines right now. And that's how it should be! Down with the monetary system and up with a resource-based economy where we all live in perfect harmony!

Patricia H.
Patricia H.4 years ago


Michele Mihlack
Michele Mihlack4 years ago

This is actually bad for anyone....it limits jobs and makes for poor economy...sometimes I wonder why we went into computer/robot age! What people were thinking??

Victoria S.
Victoria S.4 years ago

All of these seem like really stupid ideas.