Will Robots and Automation Doom Some IT Jobs?

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For decades, at least some economists made the assumption that, for every job lost to a robot or automated process, the evolving economy would add at least a few more. If a robot took your job building widgets, the idea went, you could still get a job (with sufficient retraining) fixing the widget-building robot.

But according to The New York Times, there’s an emerging view that automation is weighing down on employment. “This is the biggest challenge of our society for the next decade,” Erik Brynjolfsson, an economist at MIT, told the newspaper. Nor does Lawrence H. Summers, the former U.S. Treasury secretary, reportedly believe that the jobs lost to automation are being replaced.

To find jobs related to automation, click here.

While robots and software have become increasingly sophisticated in a relatively short period of time, it remains to be seen whether the human labor force can adapt to what some are calling a paradigm shift in how the economy works. Forget factory workers losing their jobs to line robots—what happens when a machine develops the capability to act as a health inspector or even a restaurant critic?

This trend will certainly affect tech pros in increasing numbers. Over the past few years, software and hardware vendors have redoubled their efforts to automate many processes that once required highly specialized IT workers. Once upon a time, a company required an army of IT administrators and support staff to maintain a data center; but thanks to automation, even a massive data center only requires a handful of people to keep running effectively.

For IT workers, that automation increases the pressure to learn multiple skills, rather than specializing in one or two. Hardware specialists may need to know how to code in multiple languages, for example; infrastructure experts in charge of complex and converging systems could find themselves building more apps. The alternative is potential elimination as software becomes better at dedicated tasks.

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4 Responses to “Will Robots and Automation Doom Some IT Jobs?”

  1. Fred Bosick

    I’m not worried about competing with robots. At least I’m competing with my fellow IT colleagues *on an equal basis*. It only matters what I bring to the table.

    What I cannot fight is is the inexorable tide of cheap, indentured IT servants(H-1B, EB-2, L1, etc.). Global economic imbalances are at work here, not to mention the insatiable greed of American CEOs.

    And regarding this:

    “Hardware specialists may need to know how to code in multiple languages, for example; infrastructure experts in charge of complex and converging systems could find themselves building more apps.”

    It’s one thing to casually toss this out as a writer for a tech blog. It’s *quite* another to actually do this! Ever bother to think why people gravitate to these specialties? Maybe it’s because they’re not interested or good at the others. To demand a mix of skills as given in the examples is ridiculous.

    • NoTempWorkPermittoITworkersOutburst

      Indeed.

      It’s hard not to say that what scare most of us (US IT WORKERS) is to compete with the greed and ignorance of our lawmakers.

      Every time I see people coming up with numbers about shortage of skilled it workers in US, it makes me sick to my stomach.

      It’s well known for us the quality and the reasons behind this statements.

      Some company wants to start a project, they hire a US based IT company, this company has a huge branch in places like India, Korea or China, so the company will bring here a couple of team lead, maybe a project manager, 2 or 3 developers and will ship everything else overseas.

      Bottom line: the “shortage of highly skilled” US it workers brought here few H1B’s and shipped lots of jobs overseas.

      How many US IT WORKERS in the mix? Not sure, maybe somewhere from 5% up to 15% of the total number of “resources”.

      Is it so hard to someone see that but us?

      When our lawmakers are going to see what really happens in our field? It’s ridiculous!

      Talk about robots, automation, amnesty for illegal aliens without ANY skills…. lets face it, every time I read some of it, it feels like a slap in the face of every single one of us, US WORKERS and tax payers.

  2. Darian Dunn, CISSP, CISA, CRISC

    Yes, robots replaced tape monkeys. Yes, scripts/tools will replace log checkers. Yes, there are many non-thinking jobs which will be replaced with robots.

    i.e. As has been put on t-shirts. “Go away or I will replace you with a very short shell script.”

    But if you can and do think, you can not be replaced with automation.

  3. When it comes to IT jobs in data centers, automation isn’t replacing anyone. The fact is, with cloud computing growing at a staggering clip, it’s hard to find enough qualified people to work in these positions. Automation is the only way to plug the gap & keep up with the growth rates. Automation also has the added benefit of eliminating the need for manually doing the routine, repetitive, and boring tasks many IT pros hate anyways. If I was a data center professional, the #1 skill I would focus on mastering is IT Process Automation. That alone should make me valuable enough to my company that my employment was never at risk.