McKinsey has a pretty good report out about where machines/AI can replace humans, and where they can't. I'd encourage all in the talent space to take a look - here's the link.
What you learn from the report is that AI and other forms of automation aren't new related to their ability to destroy jobs and cause dramatic restructuring of workforces as we know them. A recent HBR article shows that between 1900 and 1990, the population of farmers in the United States went from 30 million to 3 million all while the country’s population more than tripled. In other words, 97% of the farmers disappeared, 3% of the jobs were kept but changed dramatically, the cause: automation.
Smaller examples - the large-scale deployment of bar-code scanners and associated point-of-sale systems in the United States in the 1980s reduced labor costs per store by an estimated 4.5 percent and the cost of the groceries consumers bought by 1.4 percent. Huh... Check out kiosks don't work now because humans are generally helpless to learn new things on the fly - once we can scan you walking out the door without you finding a bar code, we won't have check out counters.
So automation is a fact of life. The decision you have to help your kids (as well as grown relatives and friends) make is what careers will be viable in the next wave of automation.
If you look at the McKinsey report, you have to be careful when it comes to Skilled Trades. We'll have those for the foreseeable future, but there will be pressure on these areas for sure. Look at the chart below from the report and we'll talk about it after the jump (email subscribers, click through if you can't see the picture):
What the chart says is this - the more predictable the physical work, the more jobs stand to be eliminated by automation.
Self-driving car technology is going to replace truckers. Low-end recruiters are gong to be replaced by AI technology.
What's safe for right now? Any position that manages others or requires influence (stakeholder interactions and applying expertise).
Managing others and influence have a lot of overlap. They're also among the hardest things to get good at in Corporate America. Unpredictable physical work is much less likely to be automated that predictable physical work. It stands to reason that predictable work using your brain is much more likely to be automated than unpredictable work using your brain.
You know what's unpredictable work using your brain? Dealing with those pesky people.
Which tells me the HR generalist (jack of all trades, master of some - across all career levels) is going to be around for awhile.