A Few Jobs AI Can Never Render Obsolete

Technology is transforming how goods and services are sold, and may soon kick millions of workers out of a job. But certain professions can't be replaced by bots.

Patricio O'Gorman


BUENOS AIRES — The digital revolution is destroying more jobs than it will create.

For many existing jobs, the combination of artificial intelligence (AI) and technology is a real threat. The current digital revolution is turning out to be different from previous ones, which destroyed jobs relating to outdated technologies but created many more jobs. This time, most of the people losing their jobs lack the resources to compete with machines and software that never need any time off. This year at the World Economic Forum at Davos, it was estimated that robots, AI and nanotechnology would together blitz five million jobs worldwide by 2020. They would perhaps create 2.1 million jobs for workers with knowledge of mathematics, architecture and engineering.

The digital wave targets simple administrative jobs that don't require sophisticated decision-making criteria. The digital revolution also attacks some complex tasks like scanning high-resolution medical imagery to detect pathologies or revising complex contracts. Telephone operators, statisticians and travel agents are expected to be among the worst hit, with demand for phone operators in the United States perhaps falling by about 42% over a decade from 2014, according to consultants 24/7 Wall Street and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Without realizing it, we have already let algorithms claim our working lives, daily commute, entertainment, purchases and even our sexual partners.

A National Public Radio study from 2015 found that more than 97% of telemarketers, cashiers and drivers could disappear by 2025.

The valued professions of the future are likely to be ones that have a "human" focus, meaning people working in mental health, drug abuse or occupational therapy, or dentists and even security forces, which the study found had less than a 0.4% chance of disappearing by 2025. For now, machines are finding it hard to replicate empathy or cooperation between people.

robot coffee break artificial intelligence

Coffee break — Photo: Joe Van

Without realizing it, we have already let algorithms claim our working lives (LinkedIn), daily commute (Waze), entertainment (Netflix), purchases (Amazon) and even our sexual partners (Tinder).

Israeli writer Yuval Noah Hakari writes in his most recent book Homo Deus that it isn't just jobs being lost when we let machines make our choices. Our individualism and freedom is also taken from us, he says. How many of us would venture to contradict Waze and select a route different from the one recommended or understand where exactly we can use various customer fidelity points without checking a long list of "rewarding" outlets? These are simple actions but users have shown they welcome their elimination through small technological changes.

Statistics have shown that in recent years we have spent more time using the same applications, which suggests an expectation of automatic and effortless services from companies we depend on. Amazon is testing Amazon Go — stores without employees, reception staff or checkout counters. All the stores have are products.

Customers are identified through an Amazon app. After that, computer vision and sensor fusion determine which products are purchased. Cameras registering movements on shelves means no security is required. Customers accounts are automatically charged when they leave the premises.

The implications of these developments are many, and not always pleasant.

In the best-case scenario, people losing their jobs through digital automation might start to undergo training in other fields. Clearly, not all companies can retrain or relocate their workforce nor would all workers agree to do so.

In case of mass, structural unemployment, Bill Gates, Stephen Hawking and Elon Musk have made proposed ideas like a robot tax and establishing a universal basic income. These are fairly disruptive ideas and are being closely studied (and experimented with) since many governments recognize it's impossible to reverse the trend of automation.

Here in Argentina, we might aspire to a country where technology can end strikes, picket protests and roadblocks — welcome to anyone who has been in Buenos Aires recently. Perhaps we would all have an income without having to depend on a particular activity, at least until the machines form a union and cut off our internet.

Support Worldcrunch
We are grateful for reader support to continue our unique mission of delivering in English the best international journalism, regardless of language or geography. Click here to contribute whatever you can. Merci!

Thousands of migrants in Del Rio, Texas, on the border between Mexico and the U.S.

Hannah Steinkopf-Frank, Bertrand Hauger and Anne-Sophie Goninet

👋 Сайн уу*

Welcome to Friday, where the new U.S.-UK-Australia security pact is under fire, Italy becomes the first country to make COVID-19 "green pass" mandatory for all workers, and Prince Philip's will is to be kept secret for 90 years. From Russia, we also look at the government censorship faced by brands that recently tried to promote multiculturalism and inclusiveness in their ads.

[*Sain uu - Mongolian]


• U.S. facing multiple waves of migrants, refugees: The temporary camp, located between Mexico's Ciudad Acuña and Del Rio in Texas, is housing some 10,000 people, largely from Haiti. With few resources, they are forced to wait in squalid conditions and scorching temperatures amidst a surge of migrants attempting to cross into the U.S. Meanwhile, thousands of recently evacuated Afghan refugees wait in limbo at U.S. military bases, both domestic and abroad.

• COVID update: Italy is now the first European country to require vaccination for all public and private sector workers from Oct. 15. The Netherlands will also implement a "corona pass" in the following weeks for restaurants, bars and cultural spaces. When he gives an opening speech at the United Nations General Assembly next week, unvaccinated Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro will defy New York City authorities, who are requiring jabs for all leaders and diplomats.

• U.S. and UK face global backlash over Australian deal: The U.S. is attempting to diffuse the backlash over the new security pact signed with Australia and the UK, which excludes the European Union. The move has angered France, prompting diplomats to cancel a gala to celebrate ties between the country and the U.S.

• Russian elections: Half of the 450 seats in Duma are will be determined in today's parliamentary race. Despite persistent protests led by imprisoned opposition leader Alexey Navalny, many international monitors and Western governments fear rigged voting will result in President Vladimir Putin's United Russia party maintaining its large majority.

• Somali president halts prime minister's authority: The decision by President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed marks the latest escalation in tensions with Prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Roble concerning a murder investigation. The move comes as the Horn of Africa country has fallen into a political crisis driven by militant violence and clashes between clans.

• Astronauts return to Earth after China's longest space mission: Three astronauts spent 90 days at the Tianhe module and arrived safely in the Gobi desert in Inner Mongolia. The Shenzhou-12 mission is the first of crewed missions China has planned for 2021-2022 as it completes its first permanent space station.

• Prince Philip's will to be kept secret for 90 years: A British court has ruled that the will of Prince Philip, the late husband of Britain's Queen Elizabeth who passed away in April at 99 years old, will remain private for at least 90 years to preserve the monarch's "dignity and standing."


With a memorable front-page photo, Argentine daily La Voz reports on the open fight between the country's president Alberto Fernández and vice-president Cristina Kirchner which is paralyzing the government. Kirchner published a letter criticizing the president's administration after several ministers resigned and the government suffered a major defeat in last week's midterm primary election.



An Italian investigation uncovered a series of offers on encrypted "dark web" websites offering to sell fake EU COVID vaccine travel documents. Italy's financial police say its units have seized control of 10 channels on the messaging service Telegram linked to anonymous accounts that were offering the vaccine certificates for up to €150. "Through the internet and through these channels, you can sell things everywhere in the world," finance police officer Gianluca Berruti told Euronews.


In Russia, brands advertising diversity are under attack

Russian sushi delivery Yobidoyobi removed an advertisement with a Black man and apologized for offending the Russian nation, while a grocery chain was attacked for featuring an LGBTQ couple, reports Moscow-based daily Kommersant.

❌ "On behalf of the entire company, we want to apologize for offending the public with our photos..." reads a recent statement by Russian sushi delivery Yobidoyobi after publishing an advertisement that included a photograph of a Black man. Shortly after, the company's co-founder, Konstantin Zimen, said people on social media were accusing Yobidoyobi of promoting multiculturalism. Another recent case involved grocery store chain VkusVill, which released advertising material featuring a lesbian couple. The company soon began to receive threats and quickly apologized and removed the text and apologized.

🏳️🌈 For the real life family featured in the ad, they have taken refuge in Spain, after their emails and cell phone numbers were leaked. "We were happy to express ourselves as a family because LGBTQ people are often alone and abandoned by their families in Russia," Mila, one of the daughters in the ad, explained in a recent interview with El Pais.

🇷🇺 It is already common in Russia to talk about "spiritual bonds," a common designation for the spiritual foundations that unite modern Russian society, harkening back to the Old Empire as the last Orthodox frontier. The expression has been mocked as an internet meme and is widely used in public rhetoric. For opponents, this meme is a reason for irony and ridicule. Patriots take spiritual bonds very seriously: The government has decided to focus on strengthening these links and the mission has become more important than protecting basic human rights.Russian sushi delivery Yobidoyobi removed an advertisement with a Black man and apologized for offending the Russian nation, while a grocery chain was attacked for featuring an LGBTQ couple, reports Moscow-based daily Kommersant.

➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com


"Ask the rich countries: Where are Africa's vaccines?"

— During an online conference, Dr. Ayoade Olatunbosun-Alakija, of the African Vaccine Delivery Alliance, implored the international community to do more to inoculate people against COVID-19 in Africa and other developing regions. The World Health Organization estimates that only 3.6% of people living in Africa have been fully vaccinated. The continent is home to 17% of the world population, but only 2% of the nearly six billion shots administered so far have been given in Africa, according to the W.H.O.

✍️ Newsletter by Hannah Steinkopf-Frank, Bertrand Hauger and Anne-Sophie Goninet

Support Worldcrunch
We are grateful for reader support to continue our unique mission of delivering in English the best international journalism, regardless of language or geography. Click here to contribute whatever you can. Merci!