Accountants are screwed: Will a robot take your job?

The BBC’s Panorama episode titled “Could a robot do my job?” will have many people asking themselves that very question. While the threat of dangerous artificial intelligence and weaponised machines have given us plenty to worry about in recent years, it turns out there is a more pressing concern: mass unemployment.

Accountants are screwed: Will a robot take your job?

“Generally, clerks and accountants seem to be screwed”

The beeb has produced a frightening list, based on a study by researchers at Oxford University and Deloitte, that lets you know the probably of a robot taking your job within the next 20 years, and notes that 35% of current jobs in the UK are at risk of computerisation over that period.

The 5 jobs most at risk

  1. Telephone salesperson – 99.0%
  2. Typist or related keyboard worker – 98.5%
  3. Legal secretary – 97.6%
  4. Financial accounts manager – 97.6%
  5. Weigher, grader or sorter – 97.6%

The 5 jobs least at risk

  1. Hotel and accommodation manager or owner – 0.4%
  2. Publican or manager of licensed premises – 0.4%
  3. Education adviser and school inspector – 0.4%
  4. Speech and language therapist – 0.5%
  5. Social services manager or director – 0.7%

There’s good news for some… as long as you’re a “hotel and accommodation manager or owner”, as there’s only a 0.4% chance of your job being taken by a robot – a percentage shared with “publican or manager of licensed premises” and “education adviser and school inspector”.

However, hotel owners are few. The worrying reality is that much more common jobs appear to be on the list of prospective robot jobseekers. The profession most at risk with a 99% chance of computerisation is “telephone salesperson”, followed by “typist or related keyboard worker” at 98.5% and legal secretary at 97.6%. Generally, clerks and accountants seem to be screwed.

At around 50% are “florist”, “photographer” and “pipe fitter”. If you’re in one of those professions, or if you happen to do all three, it could go either way.  

The Panorama episode will air tonight at 20:30.

Robots may take our jobs – but only the boring ones

When you go to get your hair cut in the future, you could find yourself in the hands of a robot barber.

Robots could take over from humans in a number of roles, including nurses in homes for the elderly and hospitals, journalists, and hairdressers, according to Frances Coppola, associate editor of Pieria, speaking at a seminar dubbed Humanising the Robot Society as part of London Technology week.

However, this doesn’t mean that people in these types of professions will be left out of work.

According to Coppola – who is a contributor to a book on the subject of the robot future, Our Work Here is Done – robots will take over the parts of these jobs that involve repetitive, predictable tasks, while they won’t be able to do those parts that involve intuition, creativity, and empathy.

As any hairdresser can tell you, the most important part of her job is the coffee and the chat with the clients

In the example of a robot journalist, Coppola claimed it would be easy for it to attend a seminar or press conference and report on the proceedings, but it would not be able to write features, blog posts, or opinion pieces. (We disagree, but we’re willing to take on a robot intern to find out.)

When it comes to nurses and carers, Coppola said it’s “probably fair to say that caring jobs will feature very largely in the workplaces of the future”.

“The care that humans give uniquely to each other is not fundamentally physical, although there may be a physical component,” she added.

Indeed, Coppola believes hairdressing could become a caring profession. “As any hairdresser can tell you, the most important part of her job is the coffee and the chat with the clients,” she said.

In one scenario, she envisioned a human overseeing a fleet of robot hairdressers, but she also suggested people may be prepared to pay more for a human to cut their hair, in order to get that level of social interaction.

Robot teaching aids

An example of this kind of joint human-robot environment is a project demonstrated by Heriott-Watt University.

It uses a Nao robot – a programmable model that was developed in France – that works in conjunction with a large tablet to help teach children about geography and sustainable development.

NAO teacher bot

However, Amol Deshmukh, a research associate at the university, told PC Pro it was not intended to replace teachers, but to help support what they learn in the classroom.

The silicon god complex

However, Izabella Kaminska, a reporter for the Financial Times, warned that we must not let our working lives drift into a situation where the majority are beholden to a few monopolistic technology companies.

Laying out what she admitted was a worst-case scenario, Kaminska hypothesised a Huxleyan dystopia, where most people occupy a consumer class, with a few elites operating as a “silicon god”, providing the devices and technology on which everyone else depends.

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