Automation is the future. We've been hearing this for years, so frequently that many of us can repeat it without even thinking about what it means.

We humans, of course, aren't going down without a fight. That's why the Culinary Workers Union in Las Vegas voted 99-1 for a strike, which will start on Friday. These include kitchen workers, servers, bellmen, porters and guest room attendants. Should they go through with the strike, the 34 casinos in Las Vegas will grind to a halt as their workers refuse to come in.

According to consulting firm PWC, nearly 40 percent of all jobs in the US will be automated or replaced by some sort of robot by 2025. The jobs that are most in danger of extinction are those that have highly repetitive tasks, like manufacturing, retail, hospitality and culinary work.

That spells huge problems for Las Vegas. Roughly 65 percent of the jobs in the city will be automated--due in large part to a large number of low-paid service positions--according to a study by the University of Redlands.

Taxi drivers, cashiers, cooks and game dealers will all be eliminated. Indeed, the shift is already happening. Recently, Lyft started a live pilot in Las Vegas of automated driverless rides. With 30 cars in rotation, you can schedule a ride that's completely automated.

There's a bar located in Planet Hollywood called "Tipsy Bartender" that's completely human-free. You order drinks via tablet entry, and huge robotic arms craft and deliver your cocktails for you--complete with flair moves. Multiple hotels have self-check-in kiosks so you can get to your room faster, eliminating that lengthy line at the front desk.

Perhaps the robots have already won. So much in Las Vegas is already automated that this strike could have the opposite effect, eliminating more jobs early.

Your own job is currently safe from being phased out if it meets any of these three criteria:

1. Your job requires creativity.

All you artists, designers, writers, composers, and other free-thinkers out there are currently safe. While there are already AIs that create original works of art from scratch--paintings, music and books--those tools are more likely to be used as enhancements than replacements.

For the time being, anyway.

2. You build close relationships with people.

This is a large category, which can include anything from customer service representatives to nurses. Again, we do already have automated systems to triage support requests and trauma patients. Still, we rely on live humans for actual care and handling, which is unlikely to change in the foreseeable future.

3. Your job is unpredictable.

If your day-to-day job has no discernable patterns--such as a plumber or an onsite HVAC repairman--you'll have a job for a long time to come.

Robots and AIs work best where the task is repetitive and simple. They're capable of complex "thought" patterns, but it simply doesn't make financial sense to apply them to random use cases. There will probably be an industrial-grade building maintenance robot long before plumbers became obsolete.

If you're curious to see how your current job measures up, check out the excellent WillRobotsTakeMyJob and ReplacedByRobot websites.

In the meantime, I suggest you start learning how to paint.

Published on: May 30, 2018