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Movie Projectionist

13 Jobs Lost to the Automation Uprising

If you follow movies at all, you might know that the debate over film and digital has been raging for some time. As filmmaking moves away from physical celluloid, there are plenty of fans and filmmakers alike lamenting the change, claiming that traditional film brings something to the table that digital doesn’t. What digital does bring, however, is convenience.

Once upon a time, before digital projectors, movie theater projectionists had to load up reels of film and feed that film through the projector to display the movie that you see on the screen. Then, roughly halfway through the film, they had to quickly swap to the second reel to keep the film playing without interruption. It was a legitimate skill and one that’s no longer necessary in the digital age. Now projectors are largely automated and what little human interaction is required simply amounts to button presses.

Cashier

13 Jobs Lost to the Automation Uprising

Out of every replaced job on this list, if this isn’t the one we encounter the most frequently, it’s certainly the most noticed. Self-checkout units, the brainchild of David R. Humble, started popping up roughly five years ago in major retail outlets. The process is simple: scan the barcode of the item or, in the case of things like produce, input it manually, weigh it if necessary on the integrated scale, then place it in the adjacent bagging area. Once all of your items are rung up, simply pay, bag your items, and leave. No human contact necessary.

The units are still monitored by human employees, generally just one employee per bank of self-checkout units. They’re there in case something goes wrong or a product or customer requires special attention. So yes, while these units have created a new job position for a human employee, each unit has also replaced a human cashier, so the net loss of jobs is staggering.

The system is far from perfect, however. Not only are the units themselves prone to failure (the phrase “unexpected item in bagging area” has entered popular culture), but they also reduce human interaction that, while a benefit to some, has resulted in generally lower customer satisfaction. And while shoplifting still requires a few tricks to pull off, it’s generally easier to fool a machine than a human, leading to more theft.

While self-checkout units have partially changed the face of retail, that change wasn’t enough for robot master Jeff Bezos, who took the concept even further with his Seattle-based Amazon Go store, which foregoes not only human cashiers, but cashiers of any sort. An intricate setup comprised of cameras and scales register every item as you pull it off the shelf and put it into your basket and your card – which is on file; you’re required to check in with your smartphone prior to entering – is automatically charged as you walk out the door.

Helpdesk Chatbots/Phone Operators

13 Jobs Lost to the Automation Uprising

If you’ve ever tried to contact a larger company, you’re likely familiar with the process of an automated system trying to break down and direct your query/message to the correct department. This is a crucial process for companies that get a large volume of customer feedback and questions.

Over time, chatbots and automated phone systems have only become more capable. While it can still be frustrating at times – sometimes you just need to talk to an actual human representative and that’s that – the truth is that a large percentage of customer problems can be solved through these systems. They’re usually just elaborate FAQs – frequently asked questions – but if you experience an issue that’s been solved before, more often than not the automated system can present you with a solution. Yes, voice recognition systems still need work, so you will be screaming “issues with billing” into your phone a few times, but you’d be surprised at how often that cold, annoying robot can steer you in the proper direction.

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