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Elevator Operator

13 Jobs Lost to the Automation Uprising

For most of us, our knowledge of elevator operators (or lift attendants in British English) comes from film and television. It would be easy to think that elevator operators were just there for show, like door greeters, in an attempt to establish a certain ambiance. In reality, elevator operators actually operated elevators; manual elevators were controlled by a large lever and operators had to regulate the elevator’s speed and stop not just at the correct floor, but parallel to the ground so that riders didn’t trip going in and out.

While the profession has been largely wiped out by push-button elevators, a handful of manual elevators still exist, and those buildings employ operators to work them. There are also operators who also serve as guides, such as in Seattle’s Space Needle or Kenan Thompson’s character in the Saturday Night Live David S. Pumpkins skit.

Switchboard Operator

13 Jobs Lost to the Automation Uprising

In the era of the smartphone, we’re pretty far removed from the days of telephone switchboards. It’s pretty amazing that you can now call across the world with the push of a digital button when as recently as thirty years ago there were still operators manually plugging in lines to connect callers. If you wanted to call long distance, it would often require multiple operators working in conjunction with one another and sometimes it even involved hand-cranked telephones.

The last manual switchboards were in operation in rural areas until the early nineties, when automation finally and completely wiped out a job that had existed for over 100 years.

Factory Worker

13 Jobs Lost to the Automation Uprising

This one is a bit of a broad stroke, as factory work can consist of many things. When people think of early jobs taking over by automation, they think of assembly lines; big, clanky robot arms welding together automobile parts. Henry Ford is often credited as the father of the assembly line, and while it was inspired in part by mail order handling facilities and slaughterhouses, the modern assembly line was indeed developed to improve production of the Ford Model T.

Assembly line work is monotonous and specialized, so it’s no surprise that it was an early target for automation. It can also be fairly dangerous, and it’s been theorized that the repetitive nature of the work can lead to psychological harm, which only adds to the case for industrial robots.

Stockroom Worker

13 Jobs Lost to the Automation Uprising


Robotic stockroom work is a fairly recent development, at least when compared with other jobs on this list. Amazon leads the charge, upping its robotic workforce by 50-percent to 45,000 robots between the 2015 and 2016 holiday seasons. The robots are deployed in the fulfillment centers and are responsible for locating and handling packages that need to be shipped. Tasks that used to take an hour or more to accomplish can now be done in about fifteen minutes, so it’s little wonder why Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos prefers his new robot army to the real thing.

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