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Robots taking your job? For some, it’s a close shave…

Robots taking your job? For some, it’s a close shave…

Posted on 26th April 2022

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Who remembers this EE advert that showed a barber controlling a remote, artificial hand that shave a man’s beard using a cut-throat razor?  If you didn’t have a look at the video here: it’s quite scary but impressive at the same time.

Apart from the risk of the e-barber turning into a remote version of Sweeney Todd (which might not have done EE’s sales any good), there is another risk associated with this particular bit of kit that the human barber guiding the robot might have overlooked.

A new study, one of many similar ones over the years, puts barbers among those most likely to be replaced by robots.  This particular study was carried out by scientists at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology. They developed a computer algorithm able to calculate precisely which jobs are most likely to be computerised and in which jobs humans will put up the most resistance. This algorithm is called the automation risk index (ARI) and takes into account how many aspects of a job can be done by a robot, then ranks their importance and accounts for how close machines are to being able to do these things. The tech then generates a number, between 0 and 1, and the closer to 0 it is the more “robot resistant” that job is.

At the “wrong” end of the scale, as well as purveyors of tonsorial services (i.e. barbers), bartenders, many different types of factory workers and (this was a surprise, but it does make sense) models are all at enhanced risk.

At the other end of the register, members of the clergy, doctors, scientists and Chief Executives are all less likely to be made redundant by technology.  Ministers of religion are a no-brainer, largely because it’s difficult for robots to believe in God, while the inclusion of CEOs on the ‘safe’ list is no surprise as they’ll be the ones making the decisions. However, I was under the impression that surgeons might find robots taking over some of their work but I suspect the public will want a human to be involved when it comes to important healthcare matters.

However, all this made me wonder about the law of unintended consequences.  For example, when robots start to replace humans for cutting hair and trimming or shaving men’s beards, will they be programmed to engage in appropriate conversation with their male customers?  Will they remember that one customer is a Celtic fan and another a Rangers’ fan and make suitable conversation based on these facts?  Getting a robot to engage in conversation in the average gents’ hairdressers will take some sophisticated software.  Everything from the prospects in the football to the weather and whether your mum has recovered from her chilblains will need to come within the ambit of the robot’s “brain,” and that’s before we even begin to consider the thorny subject of “something for the weekend?”

Scott Bentley, Be-IT

PS – for your information, here is the Swiss Institute of Tech’s lists of the jobs most and least a risk…

 

Jobs least at risk 

Physicists 
Neurologists 
Preventive Medicine Physicians 
Neuropsychologists and Clinical Neuropsychologists 
Pathologists 
Mathematicians 
Chief Executives 
Surgeons 
Molecular and Cellular Biologists 
Epidemiologists 

Jobs most at risk 

Slaughterers and Meat Packers 
Pressers, Textile, Garment, and Related Materials 
Graders and Sorters, Agricultural Products 
Janitors and Cleaners, Except Maids and Housekeeping Cleaners 
Orderlies 
Packers and Packagers, Hand 
Dining Room and Cafeteria Attendants and Bartender Helpers 
Food Preparation Workers 
Maids and Housekeeping Cleaners 
Cleaners of Vehicles and Equipment  

Posted in Opinion, Recruitment News


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