Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Anything You Can Do I(bot) Can Do Better

What jobs can robots and computers do better than people? We have some new entries, playing Jeopardy and some kinds of legal document searches to join such old favorites as assembling automobiles, laying out integrated circuits, exploding IEDs, playing chess and proving theorems in Euclid. Here are some more that I think are very close or already there:

  • (a)Fly an airplane
  • (b)Drive a car
  • (c)Run a warehouse
  • (d)Transcribe speech
  • (e)Translate documents

Here are a few that I think are fairly certain to happen before 2020:

  • (1)Certain surgeries
  • (2)Many menial tasks that require complex motions – harvesting fruit and vegetables, janitorial work, loading and unloading of most types, many kinds of sales jobs – but not too much higher level planning.
  • (3)Diagnosing illness
  • (4)Many kinds of teaching
  • (5)Build a house?
  • (6)Mining

In many or most of these jobs, some human assistance or supervision might still be required. There doesn’t seem to be much danger that the machines will do a good job of programming themselves soon, so human programmers will probably still be needed.

It’s pretty easy to imagine, though, that a very large fraction of existing occupations will become obsolete soon.

Contrary views, with logic please.