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Chris Stokel-Walker , Contributor Updated on: 07 August 2022
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The rise of automation, artificial intelligence, and robots have plenty of ripple effects. Some of those will be beneficial, unlocking efficiencies that otherwise wouldn’t be realized, while others will be damaging.

Many workers worry about the risks of automation and whether it could mean the end of their employment. The rise of automated skills and roles will sweep up large parts of the workforce in its wake – but it’ll take a little while to do so.

In the meantime, here are five sectors primed to take advantage of the benefits of automation – and those within them who may be worried about what’s to come.

1. Customer service

The coronavirus pandemic put paid to many customer-facing contact jobs, including those that offer customer service and support to service users. But that was just an acceleration of an already fast-moving trend. Chat bots are replacing human staff to try and triage people’s problems, with those that need escalation only passed on for proper, human interaction. However, despite the gloomy outlook for humans working in the space, there is hope. Customer service will benefit from automation – eventually. At present, it’s still in its early days. Between one in five and one in three customers say their online experience has been awful.

2. Retail

Besides the great shift online, seeing us spend far more of our cash on online purchases than I person, we’re also seeing smaller movements that indicate how important automation is going to be to the future of retail. While we spend more money at retailers like Amazon, even when we enter physical shops, the shift towards automation can be seen. Many stores have shunned physical staff, replacing them with kiosks and self-service screens. The workforce is becoming streamlined and more efficient, getting goods faster.

3. Transport

Self-driving vehicles are a longstanding goal of many automakers, most notably Tesla, and the automation already taking place in the driving seat is a signal of things to come. Transport drivers are one of the groups of workers most at risk of seeing their jobs replaced by automated alternatives because of the great strides already occurring in the field of transport.

4. Cargo agents

Shipping goods across the planet takes time, effort – and at present, plenty of people. Loading and unloading shipping containers is partly done by humans and partly by robots, but the robots are winning. As they become more precise and able to understand where to place items, the role of humans in the system becomes less useful, and with it, the risk of automation rises. It all spells disaster for anyone wanting to work in the industry now or in the future.

5. Wait staff

Many restaurants already use robot waiters who deliver food to your table – at present, as a marketing gimmick to bring people in the door. But it’s an augur of what’s to come for the human staff working alongside them because wait staff in restaurants have been singled out as among the most at-risk group of employees by the UK Office for National Statistics. The low-skilled, routine job is one that it’s believed can be easily replaced by an automated alternative – and is therefore up on the chopping block for being replaced by a robot or computerized alternative.

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