There are few of us that can't be replaced at our jobs. We are all aware that technology is moving forward at lightning speed. Many jobs that were once thought secure no longer exist. Consider that over the last several decades, mining, farming and manufacturing jobs have been dwindling at an alarming rate. In 1850, agriculture employed roughly 60% of the working population. Today, that number is less than 3%. The losses stem from the economy, lack of investments, energy prices and the growing trade deficit. Many jobs have been lost to "automated" workers and technology.
The Robot Worker
Robot workers have been replacing humans for many years. Approximately 2.5 million service robots were sold in 2011 for personal and domestic use, according to the International Federation of Robotics. Early robots were sometimes nothing more than an arm doing a repetitive skill that quickly became a staple in factories worldwide. As technology has progressed, so has the sophistication of the robots. An electronics shop in the Netherlands has factory robots that have replaced nearly every worker in its manufacturing facility. The Tesla Automotive plant in California has equipped its assembly line with robots so advanced they can change their own "hands" to do different functions.
The Robotic Farmer
Many would be surprised to learn that the largest industry in the United States is the food industry. Crops, food and fiber account for over 20% of the Gross National Product (GNP). Recently, farms have been replacing their workers with robots. One of the largest organic farms in the U.S., Earthbound, is now using robotic arms to package its lettuce. The robot sorts, fills the container, packages and sends the lettuce down the conveyor belt. Each of these robots can replace up to five workers.
Software and Hardware
Technology in all its various forms has forever changed industry. Much like the industrial revolution of 100 years ago, the "technology revolution" is changing not only our personal lives but our work lives.
Economist Brian Arthur says this emergence of technology in our economy is creating a "second economy," but the second economy isn't creating many jobs. It is creating multi-million-dollar corporations like Google, Facebook and Amazon. These companies are almost all fully automated and the number of human employees is very low.
Banking is another area where you have very little human contact. You can set up a bank account online, deposit money online or via an ATM machine, apply for a loan through the computer, and get approval by the computer, which will cut you a check or send you an overdue notice.
You can go to nearly any gas station, grocery store or retail department store in the nation and check yourself out. The process is handled completely by computer, from scanning your items to processing your payment. No human assistance is needed. Soon you will be able to just drive your cart over a scanner and pay. One software company is using new scanning technology for the items you want to purchase and biometrics for identification verification. They are currently test-marketing their system and they soon hope to sell it to retailers nationwide.
The Bottom Line
Technology today is moving so quickly no one can predict what jobs will be in demand in the future. Many experts have tried to advise people on what education they should seek or what jobs will be in demand in the future. As technology changes, so do those outlooks and predictions. The best advice for anyone would be to prepare for change, adapt with technology and be ready to continually re-educate yourself.
More From Investopedia