There has already been plenty of discussion about this article from the Atlantic that says robots will unemploy men and not women. The methodology is problematic, but the main fault is the belief that “people skills” can prevent your job from being taken over by a robot which can be seen in this except from the article:
For instance, of the 3 million truck drivers in the U.S., more than 95 percent are men; of the nearly 3 million secretaries and administrative assistants, more than 95 percent are women. Autonomous vehicles are a not-too-distant possibility, and when they arrive, those drivers’ jobs will evaporate; office-support workers suffer no such imminent threat.
This pattern holds for many of the most gender-biased occupations. Men hold 97 percent of the 2.5 million U.S. construction and carpentry jobs. The Oxford study estimates that these male workers stand more than a 70 percent chance of being replaced by robotic workers. By contrast, women hold 93 percent of the registered nurse positions. Their risk of obsolescence is vanishingly small: .009 percent.
Nearly half of today’s jobs are likely to become obsolete in the not-too-distant future.
What is causing this pattern? The skills exhibited by the coming wave of intelligent machines are better suited to occupations currently dominated by men. Many of the jobs held by men involve perception and manipulation, often in conjunction with physical exertion, such as swinging a hammer or trimming trees. The latest mobile robots combine advanced-sensory systems with dexterous manipulators to successfully perform these sorts of tasks.
Other, more cerebral male-dominated professions aren’t secure either. Many occupations that might appear to require experience and judgment—such as commodity traders—are being outdone by increasingly sophisticated machine-learning programs capable of quickly teasing subtle patterns out of large volumes of data.
By contrast, women typically work in more chaotic, unstructured environments, where the ability to read people’s emotions and intentions are critical to success. If your job involves distracting a patient while delivering an injection, guessing whether a crying baby wants a bottle or a diaper change, or expressing sympathy to calm an irate customer, you needn’t worry that a robot will take your job, at least for the foreseeable future.
If jobs that involved “calming an irate customer” were protected then we wouldn’t see ATM machines. ATM machines are one example of how “people skills” jobs, in this case bank tellers, can and will be reduced in number. In fact there are even better examples such as this comment to the article:
Seems to me that automation already came to women’s work. I remember a time when every manager had to have a secretary. Secretaries typed memos, opened and distributed internal mail, filed incoming memos in chron files, ordered supplies, scheduled meetings, and so on.
Today, the traditional job of the secretary is largely done through email. Instead of every manager having a secretary, a single admin assistant can support an entire department.
Computers have also affected other clerical jobs. In the early 80s I worked in the patient accounts department of a hospital. There were around 100 employees, mostly women. Today that same department has around 50 employees, with computer systems doing most of the work of billing and collections.
This is something that has already happened. And yet the article would have us believe that office workers can’t have their jobs eliminated. (In fact, the only reason even more women in these types of jobs haven’t be unemployed is because the government is keeping a lot of these jobs around as make work jobs for women via unnecessary regulations and unnecessary government functions.)
What the article fails to understand here is that writing computer software is easier than building a robot. Women are in a lot of paper pushing jobs (which don’t even involve paper anymore). That is what we have seen happen and will continue to happen. Women can’t save their virtual paper pushing jobs by dressing them up in “people skills”. Women haven’t been able to do that so far.
As for commodities traders, there hasn’t been an elimination of those jobs like there has been with secretaries and the like. So far big data tools have been doing work that couldn’t have been done before instead of replacing work currently being done. Unsurprisingly, the article fails to understand intelligence augmentation which is what those tools do.
Since building a robot is harder than writing computer software, jobs in the trades (which the article refers to as “swinging a hammer”) aren’t going to be eliminated in the short term. To build a robot that can replace a man in the trades requires sophisticated vision hardware and software as well the ability to interact with the real world that isn’t required to replace virtual paper pushers. It will happen eventually, but the virtual paper pushers will get eliminated first as is already happening. And this doesn’t even being to address the fact that we have a shortage of people in the trades. If there were robots ready to replace men working in the trades, it will just mitigate the shortage that already exists.
The only area where technology is going to replace men in the short term is self driving vehicles. In other words, that means cab drivers and truck drivers. However, while that may happen quickly, it won’t happen that quickly. The problem will be that, in the case of truck drivers at least, truck drivers act as de facto security guards for the cargo they’re driving. A self driving truck doesn’t have that kind of built in security system. While this is a problem that will be solved eventually, it does mean that the elimination of truck drivers will be slowed down.
Even when truck drivers are eliminated, these men will be fine. First, there is the option of taking a job in the trades since there’s a shortage there. Second, men are very capable of creating startups in various industries from tech to craft beer. In fact, because men are so successful at this, women are accusing the craft beer industry of being misogynist and running a sustained campaign against the video game industry and men working in the tech industry. The latter even includes nonsense accusations that Elon Musk is going to help #GamerGate take over Mars and, ironically, baseless attacks on self driving vehicles.
What we are seeing with the article from the Atlantic is the same thing that happened to Tom Smykowski, the people skills guy in Office Space:
This article is basically women saying the same thing as Tom Smykowski from Office Space. Women are saying, “We have people skills. We are good at dealing with people. Can’t you understand that? What is wrong with you people?” Tom Smykowski was the first to be let go. His “people skills” did not help him, and women’s “people skills” aren’t helping them either.