Shamayun Miah – Will Robots Take Our Jobs When We Graduate

We spoke to Shamayun Miah a leading tech expert about automation, graduates, and future employment.  This is what Shamayun Miah said.  If I were a recent college graduate, I couldn’t help but feel concerned with automation and how AI, ML, and robotics could dramatically affect my future.

The rapid digitalisation of the economy spanning nearly every sector more than validates these feelings. Before diving into exactly how much new graduates should worry about automation crushing their hopes and dreams, let me give you some background on myself, Shamayun Miah. My experience brings value to this topic and has helped me craft a realistic perspective regarding automation.

Working for a global technology company has given me insights into how the digitalization of the economy will take shape in the next couple of decades. My work with IBM involved developing nations in Africa and the Middle East, areas full of culture and economic potential. For over seven years, I spent my tenure working hand in hand with industry leaders looking to industrialize their businesses and uplift their local economies to compete on a global scale.

The experience I gained at IBM showed me how fast industries could change when there is market potential. Witnessing industrialisation firsthand has given me a unique perspective on what is to come in the developed world as digitalisation and automation become opportunities for businesses to experience exponential growth.

Sectors Automated in 2021

The economy becoming automated is nothing new. Since the industrial revolution, the world has experienced the implementation of machines to replace simple jobs done by humans. Once memory programable computer chips became widely used in American factories around the 1970s and 80s, we began to see a significant shift.

Today, countries like India are implementing what is known as 4th Industrial Revolution (4IR) technologies, especially in the agricultural sector. Bringing technology to India’s rural farming areas and factories have dramatically increased the country’s gross domestic product.

We are experiencing the 5th Industrial Revolution (5IR) in the West with expanded accessibility to AI, big data, ML, advanced robotics, and IoT technologies. While adding technology to rural India offers incredible opportunities to rural communities, lifting them from poverty by making farming and factories competitive globally, the West is in a much different situation.

A study done in 2013 by the University of Oxford predicted that 47% of US employees would be at risk of being automated out of their jobs in the next decade. The researchers (Frey & Osborne) site the most likely and least likely jobs to be automated in their extensive report. As we approach the end of their bleak’ end of jobs’ date, it’s unclear how many jobs have been automated; however, their number one pick for most likely to be automated turned out to be true.

If you own a cell phone, you probably have noticed that robots have nearly exclusively taken over telemarketing just in the past couple of years. By 2023, I would be shocked to hear a warm-bodied telemarketer on the other line.

The next nine jobs they identify as likely to be lost due to automation are:

  • Title Examiners, abstractors, and searchers
  • Hand sewers
  • Mathematical technicians
  • Insurance underwriters
  • Watch repairers
  • Cargo and freight agents
  • Tax preparers
  • Photographic process workers and processing machine operators
  • New accounts clerks

While some jobs they identify don’t require a college degree, most mathematical technician jobs require at least a bachelor’s. Big data puts any job analyzing numbers at risk because AI and ML technologies are much more efficient at finding patterns and solving technical problems than humans. However, these jobs are likely to be handled by data scientists who work with advanced predictive software built with programming languages built with Python and SQL. In the case of the mathematical technicians, the need for their expertise doesn’t disappear; it takes a new form alongside software that can handle structured data better than the human brain.

The report’s insights are alarming, to say the least, especially if you don’t possess a marketable skill. More recent data shows us that the trend isn’t slowing down; however, it’s still hard to tell how many workers are displaced due to automation.

A report by TechJury predicts that 1.5 million jobs in the UK will be replaced by automation, “especially repetitive ones.” The report also points to the World Economic Forum data that says machines will create 58 million jobs globally.

The Future of Jobs

When we look at these numbers, they are alarming, especially if you just spent four years working on your degree to become a mathematics technician. For me, the data clearly indicates that our future includes working alongside AI, ML, and robotics. Hopefully, implementing these new technologies will provide more opportunities rather than displacing an economically devastating number of workers.

I’m not concerned about mathematics technicians because they are skilled workers. They may have to learn Python to find a job, but their advanced math skills will help them find a place in the automated workforce of the future. The college graduate I’m concerned for has a degree rather than a skill. There are only so many art history jobs. While the liberal arts are critical to a thriving, culturally diverse society, the jobs commonly used to support graduates who fail to secure a career after college are at risk of disappearing due to automation.

We immediately think of jobs like waiting tables, cashiers, and retail employees as the most at risk. While many of these jobs will be phased out with machines, many people who have a degree rather than a skill find a good living as insurance underwriters or title examiners. (Both identified in the Oxford report as likely to be automated)

Preparing Yourself for the Future

The fear of automation is a valid concern, especially for those with decades of work ahead of them. The robots are here, and many industries like Banking and Retail can benefit drastically by implementing AI, ML, and big data. I’m optimistic for the future. In the same way that rural farmers in the undeveloped world are presented with opportunities created with automation, the West will also experience new opportunities for growth as economic digitalisation continues. Work will indeed change, but there will always be a need for an expansive, diverse human workforce… in the foreseeable future, at least…  Shamayun Miah