In 2005 I was working for an online pharmacy. They’d just moved to bigger premises in early 2005 and made a major shift in business thinking, in that they were moving from what had been mainly selling over-the-counter products and medicines, like beauty products, hand and face creams, hair restoring products and the like, to a more prescription-based model, where they were going to be supplying mainly prescription medicines to patients, and in particular, the repeat prescription market.
Robots vs humans
In order to achieve this they had bought in a state-of-the-art robotic product ‘picker’. This was going to speed up the storage and selection of medicines tens of times quicker than any human. And it did. It was a fantastic machine. At one end the pharmacist decided on-screen what medicines went to the packer, and the picker did it’s job at breathtaking speed, doing away with all the inefficiencies of the previous human selection process.
It was a game changer, not only in terms of profitability for the company, but also for me, the graphic designer who had been working mainly on the over-the-counter side of things, creating the promotional graphics and advertising for the perfumes, hand creams and everything else in OTC. Photographs and product advertising for prescription medicines wasn’t needed. The shift in business priority became obvious, my role dwindled, and although initially I was offered some extra work in technical support to keep it as a full time position, it was a poor fit, and by the end of August 2005 my job was made redundant. I was 43.
On a positive note…
Being made redundant was a blessing in disguise for me. I used my small redundancy settlement to set up my own business in graphic design. There are upsides and downsides to self-employment in graphics that can still make it much like a conventional job, but that is another story, for another blog, I expect.
What roles for humans in future?
This is a YouTube video that rang true to me particularly a few weeks back. I think you should watch it, so I’m including it here:
Humans Need Not Apply
It predicts that in the near future, robots and automation are set to replace a lot of conventional jobs, just as installing a robot into the pharmacy indirectly affected the viability of my last conventional job in 2005.
The video mentions Watson, a ‘robot’ doctor, able to prescribe medicines with access to vast patient records and the ability for recall historical symptom and drug data way beyond that of a normal general practitioner.
It got me thinking: how soon before this affects the other pharmacy jobs in that chain? The pharmacist? The packer? All of the roles I described above still involve human intervention, but I suspect this will not be for very long. And this is just one sector in a stream of both highly-skilled, and lower-skilled, professions.
A.I. is coming…
So – artificial intelligence is coming. It is time to re-skill, or become redundant. Many professionals, white collar workers and low-skill workers all have things to worry about from automation. A lot of the automation in the video is already here.
A scary thought, especially if you’re one of those professions directly in line to be affected by the onset of AI and automation. But not if you start thinking now about ways to re-skill and reapply your professional knowledge.
Is your profession under threat of automation right now? Are you looking for a way out of that threat of redundancy?
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