May 20, 2013, 4:42 PM — A recent slideshow, "10 Careers Robots Are Taking From You", highlighted things that, it argued, robots can do as well as humans. But most just augment and improve part of what humans do, not the whole job. And let's be clear, many of the examples are pretty much pie in the sky.
All the same, the article got me thinking about jobs that won't be taken over by robots anytime in the near future, and so here's my top 10:
1. Chefs and line cooks. I don't care how dextrous and encyclopedic robots might become, the chaos that a restaurant kitchen can become when it gets "in the weeds" and the sheer complexity of keeping a dining room full of customers happy won't happen in my lifetime. On the other hand, I'm pretty damn old so that window may not be that big.
2. Member of Congress. This is guaranteed. There is no way in hell the pols would allow even the smartest robot to replace them. Even if a robot was to somehow get nominated and win a seat, I'd bet there'd be an "accident" that would probably involve it being reprogrammed with an axe before it got to Washington. And what about taking bribes? Nope, that's better left to people.
3. NASCAR fan. Of course robots can't do this; some things are just way too boring even for machines.
4. Telephone customer service. Unless there's some incredible leap forward in Artificial Intelligence (to create what would actually be an Engineered Consciousness), a robot answering the phone is a long, long way away. Unless, of course, you were to create a robot that didn't actually solve your problem, but simply recited stock sentences in a barely understandable accent before dropping the call without any warning.
5. Weeding my garden. The sheer complexity of weeding a whole garden - not just the lawn - would require something far smarter than any robot that exists today. Watson might be able to answer a Jeopardy question about roses, but it couldn't tell a Taraxacum officinale from a Lolium multiflorum. Plus Watson wouldn't fit through my garden gate.
6. High school teacher. I'm not just talking about the teaching part, but the managing of a group of 30 or more rowdy, intractable teenagers. I suppose the cyborg from Terminator might be capable, but unless Skynet starts a cross-temporal outreach program we're not going to be seeing anything like real world teaching conducted by robots any time soon.
7. Driving in Los Angeles rush hour. Sure, all of the autonomous driving demos we've seen are impressive, but have you tried to navigate L.A. during rush hour? Or Boston? Or New York? Any self-respecting robot would just throw up it's hands at the sheer illogic of trying to get anywhere under such conditions.
8. Comedian. Comedy is something that is so hard to define and so hard to deliver that it will be a long time before we turn on the TV to see a robot deliver a decent joke. Then again, perhaps that explains why most late night hosts aren't funny.
9. Pole dancer. Actually there is an artist, Giles Walker, who has built pole dancing robots (you can find them on YouTube), but these art pieces have about as much sex appeal as a lawnmower. Nope, it will be a long, long time until robots can convincingly bump and grind.
10. Writing Backspin. The chances of seeing a robot deliver Backspin in the near future are slim to ...BUZZZZT, b hmhm ... [Unexpected Exception: Program terminated]
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