Terminating Jobs

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When California’s former governor said “I’ll be back;” little did we know it would happen so soon.

Jobs are being terminated but it’s not because of downsizing or outsourcing. This problem is a little more robotic. Technology might make things easier but there’s a good chance the convenience you are enjoying put a few people out of work. And according to MSN Money the robots for humans movement is just getting underway. So MSN took a look at the gadgets that are taking over the workforce and the jobs they’re taking with them.

The most obvious is also the one that you are most attached to; your smart phone. Cell phones in general pretty much eliminated the need for land lines and the people that install them and they’re just getting started. Now you can handle your business such as depositing checks and managing your accounts decreasing the need for you to chat with a banker. Plus the original purpose of the cell phone is to communicate which MSN says could cost postal workers their paychecks.

For more machines that are terminating your employment keep reading. I guess life really does imitate art.

From MSN Money

Smartphone, E-book readers and self-serve kiosks

Consider your smartphone. It's cool. It does more and more. But did you ever wonder what it's meant for the folks who used to install landlines? Many of those jobs are long gone, and your smartphone is just getting started.

Mitek Systems offers a way for you to deposit checks by taking pictures of them with your phone, says Jim Oberweis, the president of Oberweis Funds, which owns the stock. That makes life easier for you. It's not great for bank clerks.

Thanks in part to texting, email and apps like smartphone banking, the Bureau of Labor Statistics says 181,800 U.S. Postal Service workers will lose their jobs between 2010 and 2020, 28% of the total.

Then there's the Kindle and other electronic book readers. As you're paging through the latest Steven King novel, you're probably not thinking about the paper mill workers, truckers and retail salespeople whose jobs are being lost to these devices. Editors are threatened, too; besides helping you read e-books, these readers help writers self-publish. Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban recently bypassed publishing houses altogether to put his latest book out via Kindle, to speed up turnaround time, he says.

Likewise, airport ticket kiosks make check-in a breeze, and they cut the number of workers behind airline counters. Retail jobs are quickly falling victim to that first cousin of the kiosk, the self-checkout register. While consumers have struggled with these in grocery stores -- it can be tough to get the codes right for Fuji apples as opposed to, say, Golden Delicious -- in drugstores where everything can be barcoded, self-checkout has made unmitigated progress. Some Walgreens (WAG) stores don't have cashiers anymore, says McAfee

The Google car

Google has thoroughly tested a "self-driving" car that employs a combination of lasers, software, cameras and other sensors to safely navigate highways in California. It's not science fiction anymore.

To start off, Google drives roads using video cameras, spinning lasers and radar to create a detailed digital map of the features, so that software used in the car gets familiar with a route.

Then the same sensors help the car safely drive itself. An off-the-shelf PC inside the vehicle can process 1.3 million laser readings and 20 driving decisions per second. "We've successfully driven roughly 200,000 miles across a wide variety of terrain and road conditions, and we're very pleased with the performance," says a Google spokesman.

At first, the vehicle could simply help people drive more safely. Eventually, it may take over driving completely. "This is fantastic. It lets us get out of the business of driving cars," says McAfee.

The Google car won't put parents out of work, but it will reduce the burden of one of their main tasks -- driving the kids around for activities. Over time, the system could reduce demand for truckers, cab drivers and construction equipment operators, or lower the skill set required for those jobs -- along with the pay.

Warehouse robots and factory drones

Schlepping products and parts around used to be the bane of warehouse workers everywhere. But that task is quickly being taken over by robots.

A company called Kiva Systems, funded in part by Bain Capital Ventures, developed a smart robot system a few years ago that's now doing a lot of the lifting and moving inside warehouses at major companies like Amazon.com.

Of course, robots have been taking over factory jobs for years. But the emergence of the cloud, or the storage of vast amounts of processing power and commands in easily accessible centralized computers, will lower the cost of developing robots, speeding up this trend, predicts Todd Lowenstein, the portfolio manager of the HighMark Value Momentum Fund.

Foxconn Technology Group, a Taiwan company that assembles iPhones and iPads in China, plans to put a million robots -- more than the number of humans it employs -- to work over the next several years, says Lowenstein. Within a generation, the line between robots and humans may blur, as people get robotic eyes or chips in their brains that help them think, predicts Sean Brennan, a professor at the department of mechanical and nuclear engineering at Pennsylvania State University. "It will raise ethical issues," he says. To say the least.

3-D printers go mainstream

For years, 3-D printers -- which allow you to "print" objects -- have been too expensive for the average consumer. But that's changing. In the next few weeks, MakerBot Industries in New York will start shipping a 3-D printer called the Replicator, which will sell for less than $2,000.

The printer, which uses a tiny nozzle to create objects by spraying plastic according to patterns you load into its software, looks like it can make only rudimentary objects now, at least judging by demonstration video on the company's website. But that doesn't stifle the enthusiasm of MakerBot CEO and founder Bre Pettis, who claims one day you will be able to use these printers to make virtually anything.

Which jobs are at risk? Right now, the jobs of anyone who helps design and make prototypes of almost anything the old-fashioned way, by hand.

A key breakthrough to look for: When 3-D printers get sophisticated enough to print electronic circuits, he says. At that point, 3-D printers could churn out the latest version of the iPhone.

Dr. Computer will see you now

Watson, the IBM (IBM) computer that grabbed headlines by successfully defeating humans at "Jeopardy", seemed harmless enough. After all, who really cares if a computer can beat humans on a TV quiz show?

Watson's victory, however, showed us how great computers have gotten at pattern recognition. Watson was able to sift through 200 million pages of data to match answers to questions. This feat is pretty similar to the basics of medical diagnosis -- matching symptoms to a disease.

So Watson's victory was a hint that computers will be doing much more of the work of doctors over the next few decades, predicts McAfee, at MIT.

So at some point, we'll prefer "Dr. Watson" over a human. "We know human doctors have bias and they are not always on top of their game. I prefer a 100%, always-on diagnosis machine. And I think that's Watson."

Military robots

One of the toughest jobs ever invented is that of a soldier. In addition to the people repeatedly trying to kill you, there are also long stretches of boredom, awful meals and terrible sleep to cope with.

In short, it's the perfect job for a machine. This explains why so many more robots will be soldiering in the coming years. The Predator drone, made by General Atomics, may be the best known machine replacing humans in warfare. It's taken over much of the work once performed by pilots. The Predator was used to gather intelligence that led to the demise of Osama bin Laden.

Companies like Northrop Grumman and AeroVironment also produce a variety of unmanned aircraft with names like Global Hawk, Wasp and Puma which regularly spy on the enemy. On the ground, machines from iRobot like the PackBot and the Negotiator help defuse roadside bombs or gather intelligence for soldiers.

I wish I could tell you what other cool robots are on their way to the battlefield in the coming years. But if I knew and I told you, I'd have the CIA knocking on my door.

Apart from soldiering, similar robots can take an increasing number of private-sector jobs -- doing work now done by airline pilots, police officers and firefighters, for example

Robotic lawnmowers

It's been a tradition for many a high school kid for years, including yours truly. Mow the neighbor's lawns for some money on the side and get your first introduction to work, sacrifice and the satisfaction of earning some reward for a job well done.

Of course, the long-term threat here isn't just to kids. Robot mowers could trim school playfields, ballparks, golf courses and more.

At least now, though, tech-savvy kids can earn money on the side by fixing their neighbors' computers when they crash

The robot pharmacist

If you've ever had the suspicion that pharmacists are overpaid for simply reading prescriptions and putting pills in bottles, now there are a few machines around that might agree with you.

Of course, highly-trained pharmacists are also on the lookout for potentially dangerous drug interactions and can answer questions about medications. Never mind that doctors could be on top of this.

Behind the scenes, though, mail-order pharmacies like Medco Health Solutions are favoring machines over pharmacists to help get the pills in the bottles.

Snow says Medco's robots are 23 times more accurate than human pharmacists. (The National Association of Chain Drug Stores responds that these comments are just part of campaign to convert more patients over to mail-order pharmacy services, and push aside the neighborhood pharmacist.)

Voice-recognition machines

The painstaking task of transcribing dictation may soon be a thing of the past, thanks to transcription machines sold by a company called Nuance Communications. And sophisticated speech recognition threatens to replace all kinds of jobs -- from customer service rep to language translators, and others.

How long can it be before costly court transcribers are replaced by machines?

The majority of customer-service rep calls follow a handful of predictable scripts, over and over. So it shouldn't be too hard to teach a voice-recognition-enabled computer to deal with them. And McAfee predicts that in a few years, travelers will be able to put a smartphone with a translation app on the table and carry on a full conversation with a person in a foreign country who doesn't speak the same language.