Automation and the rise of the machines – are you ready

automation-investingToday we can see rapid developments in automation coming seemingly from every direction. From self driving cars, package delivery by drones, self service supermarket checkouts to robo-advisors in the financial industry. To take advantage of this and make massive cost savings, companies will strive to utilise the new technology, sometimes sadly at the cost of human job roles.

It is unlikely that there will be an overall drop in employment rates, but job functions will change drastically. In fact, new job roles will appear for those who are sufficiently skilled to operate or manage the new technologies. Since the future is never certain it is important to invest wisely today to ensure that you will not be left exposed when the tide goes out.

“Staff behave like robots”

According to Deutsche Bank CEO, John Cryan, in future the bank will not need as many employees as they have now. This is due to the impact that advances in Artificial Intelligence (AI) are having on their operations.

Cryan stated that: “In our banks we have people behaving like robots doing mechanical things, tomorrow we’re going to have robots behaving like people” and “maybe people need to find new ways of spending their time”.

Accountants were identified as being particularly at risk because for the majority of the time they act as an abacus which can easily be replicated by computers. For companies, other benefits of AI is that it is cheap, can be faster, has no union and does not complain. It is mostly roles which are less skilled, repetitive and task oriented which are at risk but higher paid six figure salary roles in banking, investment and insurance can also be done by software processes.

How to fight automation:

Learn new skills

If you think that your job role is safe from the wave of automation you should think again. Even the most unlikely occupations are at risk. Jobs nearing extinction include travel agents, bank tellers, electrical and water meter readers, financial advisors, estate agents, typists, postal workers and librarians. Even commercial airline pilots are at risk of replacement by “Auto Pilots”, particularly for cargo planes. Robots have also begun assisting or carrying out full medical surgeries.

To avoid negative consequences, employees can retrain or re-skill in areas which will be in demand, either in their current field or in new industries. Obviously this will require time, dedication, cost and most of all the willingness to change. However, some may not be able to do this successfully or could and up in worse situations than before. This is where investing wisely and thinking about gaining financial independence comes in.

To have an idea of how the future job market looks like and assess the status of your job you can review the US Occupational Outlook Handbook.

Case Study: Engineering and Construction

From a personal perspective, working in construction engineering design, I have seen some of these changes due to technology and there is potentially a lot more of this in future. A lot of time and effort used to be spent on creating design drawings and schedules. This has been made a lot more efficient with BIM (Building Information Management) 3D visualisation techniques. New digital skills will be needed in additional to traditional engineering knowledge. Companies such as MX3D are also using robots to print complex bridges as shown below.

Invest for the future

When working towards or having financial independence, an employee would be less concerned about all the stressful factors that come along with holding a 9 to 5 jobs. These factors include potential role replacement by automation along with other usual ones such as office politics, performing mind numbing tasks, long commutes and team or corporate changes such as restructuring.

The most important thing is to ensure that you are financially secure, no matter what happens. Being broke while having outdated skills is not a good situation to be in. Saving hard and investing wisely are the only sure way that this can be achieved in a reasonable amount of time. This is essentially a back up for your back-up plan.

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