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-   -   What jobs have been eliminated due to automation. (https://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?t=880337)

Mcmechanic 08-12-2019 09:41 PM

What jobs have been eliminated due to automation.
 
From the recent threads on automation, Iím wanting to compile a list of jobs that have been eliminated due to automation. Why? No reason, just think itíll be fun. Now Iím talking about completely eliminated where it no longer exists.
The first one I can come up with is telephone operator. Like the oneís that used to connect wires to other wires.

Mcmechanic 08-12-2019 09:52 PM

I thought about projectionist, but according to Indeed evidently thatís still a job.

Wesley Clark 08-12-2019 09:56 PM

Theres not just the issues of jobs disappearing, there's also the fact that one person can do the work of 3 people now due to automation.

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/F..._1890-2014.png

There were 850k coal miners in the 1920s, there are barely 100k now. Coal production has doubled in that time from 600 million tons to 1200.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coal_m...production.png

So we are able to mine 2x as much coal with 1/8 as many workers.

There are still coal miners, but far fewer. So the job wasn't 'eliminated' but you need far fewer people.

Mcmechanic 08-12-2019 10:03 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Wesley Clark (Post 21802895)
Theres not just the issues of jobs disappearing, there's also the fact that one person can do the work of 3 people now due to automation.

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/F..._1890-2014.png

There were 850k coal miners in the 1920s, there are barely 100k now. Coal production has doubled in that time from 600 million tons to 1200.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coal_m...production.png

So we are able to mine 2x as much coal with 1/8 as many workers.

There are still coal miners, but far fewer. So the job wasn't 'eliminated' but you need far fewer people.

Yes I get productivity improvements over time. But just trying to think of job eliminations, where the job doesnít really exist anymore.

Robot Arm 08-12-2019 11:27 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Mcmechanic (Post 21802902)
Yes I get productivity improvements over time. But just trying to think of job eliminations, where the job doesnít really exist anymore.

That might be tough. I haven't talked to a telephone operator in a long time, but are they really all gone?

What about milking cows? Any commercial dairy must have an automated milking machine these days, but I suspect there are a few hobby farms, or self-sufficiency types who can still do it by hand.

Little Nemo 08-12-2019 11:33 PM

Computers.

Not the machines. The people the machines were named after. There used to be people who made a living out of performing basic arithmetic. If you owned a business like a bank and needed to have a large number of sums added together, you hired a computer.

Telemark 08-12-2019 11:36 PM

Bowling alley pin setters

SuperAbe 08-12-2019 11:42 PM

Elevator operators

Little Nemo 08-12-2019 11:43 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Robot Arm (Post 21802988)
What about milking cows? Any commercial dairy must have an automated milking machine these days, but I suspect there are a few hobby farms, or self-sufficiency types who can still do it by hand.

I think this points to a useful distinction. I'm sure there are people who own a cow or two and milk them by hand. But I doubt there's anyone who hires somebody to milk cows. At most, there may be some people who work as general farm hands who milk a cow as a part of their job.

There used to be people who milked cows for a living. But any dairy farm that's producing enough milk nowadays to make it a full-time job is going to have automated milking. So while milking cows by hand still exists, the job of milking cows by hand has been eliminated.

guizot 08-12-2019 11:47 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Robot Arm (Post 21802988)
What about milking cows?

Or what about home milk delivery? In old TV shows you see that people had someone bring milk to their home every morning, like the newspaper. Why did that stop? Because refrigerators became better? Or maybe just because milk production grew in scale so that there was no longer a market for that service? Whatever, it's not that we now have machines delivering milk to your house.

I can think of many jobs that no longer exist, but usually it's not because the job itself is now done by automated machines, but because whole systems of production have changed, and either those jobs are not efficient/necessary, or they're no longer viable ways to earn a living. The relates to the article SuperAbe posted.

Defensive Indifference 08-13-2019 12:31 AM

Photo developers/techs/whatever? As with hobby farming, I imagine some people still have a darkroom and jars of chemicals on hand to produce their own 8x10 glossies, but does anyone do it for a living anymore? You don't take the film to the photo place anymore. You take your phone or USB stick to Walgreen's and print it out yourself in a minute.

Leaffan 08-13-2019 12:40 AM

Airline navigators?

Little Nemo 08-13-2019 01:39 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by guizot (Post 21803010)
Or what about home milk delivery? In old TV shows you see that people had someone bring milk to their home every morning, like the newspaper. Why did that stop? Because refrigerators became better? Or maybe just because milk production grew in scale so that there was no longer a market for that service? Whatever, it's not that we now have machines delivering milk to your house.

I can think of many jobs that no longer exist, but usually it's not because the job itself is now done by automated machines, but because whole systems of production have changed, and either those jobs are not efficient/necessary, or they're no longer viable ways to earn a living. The relates to the article SuperAbe posted.

But this doesn't apply to milking cows. That's an example of people being replaced by machines. People used to milk cows manually. Now cows are milked by machines.

Voyager 08-13-2019 02:22 AM

When I was at Intel in the mid-90s there was a whole bunch of people who drew the detailed circuits, laying them out to be as compact as possible. Five years later when I moved into the microprocessor group at Sun that job no longer existed, replaced by CAD tools.
There are still people who do the detailed layout of cells in a library, but these people didn't do that.

Voyager 08-13-2019 02:24 AM

The job of pumping gas might not be totally eliminated yet, given the one or two states that mandate it, but I haven't seen one such person in all of California. So that isn't exactly a job with a future.

RitterSport 08-13-2019 03:52 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Voyager (Post 21803106)
The job of pumping gas might not be totally eliminated yet, given the one or two states that mandate it, but I haven't seen one such person in all of California. So that isn't exactly a job with a future.

They haven't been automated away, though. The work is now done by the consumer instead, right? I mean, you could pump your own gas when the machines were totally analog. Along these lines are those self-checkout lines -- that seems like it would be a better example, because the scanners take all the guesswork out of ringing up groceries, except that there are still plenty of register workers.

Leaffan had a good one with airline navigators -- there used to always be three people in the cockpit. I think the last plane that needed that were older 747s, right?

How about typesetters? Does anyone actually lay out type anymore?

Kimera757 08-13-2019 05:47 AM

Travel agents: the job hasn't been eliminated, but you can buy some packages online with little human intervention. If you're just flying to see relatives somewhere, you likely can just buy the tickets online. (I had to call the airline once due to doing something stupid the first time I traveled by myself. There's still support staff, but you will be on hold for a long time because the airline doesn't need many support staff.)

Bank tellers - the position still exists, but far fewer are needed. The positions are somewhat sales-based now. There's less need for tellers to do basic transactions when ATMs and online banking can handle most customer needs.

The job description of secretary has changed. Some old-time secretaries seemed to be scribes (typists). They had to learn to justify text by hand. Now computers do that automatically. Anyone can copy and paste text. The computer has a decent (but not perfect) spellchecker. Instead of distributing copies of memos, you have email. Modern day secretaries are more like personal assistants.

galen ubal 08-13-2019 05:59 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Kimera757 (Post 21803188)
Travel agents: the job hasn't been eliminated, but you can buy some packages online with little human intervention. If you're just flying to see relatives somewhere, you likely can just buy the tickets online. (I had to call the airline once due to doing something stupid the first time I traveled by myself. There's still support staff, but you will be on hold for a long time because the airline doesn't need many support staff.) <<snip>>
.

Actually, I've been doing all my travel arrangements online for quite some time - flights, hotels, resorts, hire cars and all. It seems like there's no need for a travel agent anymore, it you're the least bit internet savvy.

campp 08-13-2019 06:06 AM

The railroads have dropped employment in all sectors. 70 years ago, the move from steam to diesel took a lot of labor out. Modern brakes have reduced the need for other men to ride along as brakemen. Today they are even using remote controlled switchers in yard situations.

Will the future bring crew-less trains? Probably. Eventually. Right now it's an order of magnitude more difficult than the current driver-less big rigs on the highway. We'll see.

pullin 08-13-2019 06:23 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by campp (Post 21803205)
The railroads have dropped employment in all sectors. 70 years ago, the move from steam to diesel took a lot of labor out. Modern brakes have reduced the need for other men to ride along as brakemen. Today they are even using remote controlled switchers in yard situations.

Will the future bring crew-less trains? Probably. Eventually. Right now it's an order of magnitude more difficult than the current driver-less big rigs on the highway. We'll see.

Have brakemen been eliminated? Or just the necessity for them? I thought the union kept them employed aboard trains still. Or maybe I'm thinking of firemen.

XT 08-13-2019 08:07 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Mcmechanic (Post 21802870)
From the recent threads on automation, Iím wanting to compile a list of jobs that have been eliminated due to automation. Why? No reason, just think itíll be fun. Now Iím talking about completely eliminated where it no longer exists.
The first one I can come up with is telephone operator. Like the oneís that used to connect wires to other wires.

Completely eliminated? I think only elevator operators have completely been eliminated. I believe that there are still telephone operators who are basically receptionists and can transfer you to your party, blah blah blah. If we go back a bit, I think telegraph operator has actually been officially removed as a job by the government. Generally, while automation eliminates some or even most jobs it doesn't eliminate them all.

I found this article that kind of explains the concept, and there is a helpful chart:

Quote:

Automation often replaces human labor, but very rarely in the last sixty years has it eliminated an entire occupation.

Only one of the 270 detailed occupations listed in the 1950 US Census has since been eliminated by automation, according to a working paper by Harvard economist James Bessen. The one exception: elevator operator.

While the government has removed other occupations from the Census due to factors like lack of demand (boardinghouse keepers) and technological obsolescence (telegraph operators), only elevator operators owe their occupationís demise mostly to automation, Bessen found.

kenobi 65 08-13-2019 09:03 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by campp (Post 21803205)
The railroads have dropped employment in all sectors. 70 years ago, the move from steam to diesel took a lot of labor out.

In the early 1950s, my father was in college, and had a summer job working for the local railroad. He was hired as a fireman (whose job entailed shoveling coal and managing the fire), despite the fact that the railroad had just finished the switch to diesel-electric locomotives -- I'm not sure if it was due to the laws still requiring firemen, or a labor contract requiring them, but the net of it was that he worked as a fireman, on a diesel locomotive.

He said that his job largely entailed riding around in an locomotive and waving to children. :D

kenobi 65 08-13-2019 09:16 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by XT (Post 21803319)
Completely eliminated? I think only elevator operators have completely been eliminated.

There's at least one public building I know of which still has manual elevators, and actual elevator operators (who do more than just push buttons): the Fine Arts Building, in downtown Chicago.

But, yes, it's a job that's close enough to extinct to qualify as "completely eliminated."

Akaj 08-13-2019 10:10 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by campp (Post 21803205)
Will the future bring crew-less trains? Probably. Eventually. Right now it's an order of magnitude more difficult than the current driver-less big rigs on the highway. We'll see.

Why would autonomous trains be more difficult than autonomous trucks? Trucks on the highway have far more variables to manage than trains on rails. Trains don't have other trains changing lanes in front of them. They don't even have to steer.

Author Balk 08-13-2019 10:58 AM

I don't think there are any keypunch operators anymore.

Trom 08-13-2019 01:43 PM

Open outcry floor traders are almost completely gone. There are still a few left on the NYSE floor and in the CBOE options pits. Most of the Chicago commodities pits have gone completely electronic.

Voyager 08-13-2019 01:44 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by RitterSport (Post 21803148)
They haven't been automated away, though. The work is now done by the consumer instead, right? I mean, you could pump your own gas when the machines were totally analog. Along these lines are those self-checkout lines -- that seems like it would be a better example, because the scanners take all the guesswork out of ringing up groceries, except that there are still plenty of register workers.

Unless I get paid for doing it, it isn't a job. Grocery store checkout people are not going to be eliminated anytime soon since you need to be 21 to buy alcohol. The gas pumpers of old have become convenience store cashiers, and there are a lot fewer of them.

begbert2 08-13-2019 01:50 PM

Assembly lines used to be more about there being people lined up, and I'm sure that many of the specific jobs on such lines have been completely eliminated.

I Love Me, Vol. I 08-13-2019 02:01 PM

Mr. McGuire: I want to say one word to you. Just one word.

Benjamin: Yes, sir.

Mr. McGuire: Are you listening?

Benjamin: Yes, I am.

Mr. McGuire: "Buggy whips."

Benjamin: Exactly how do you mean?

Mr. McGuire: There's a great future in buggy whips. Think about it. Will you think about it?

Benjamin: Dude... 'buggy whips' is like, TWO words.

Mr. McGuire: Alright. 'Plastics' then.

RitterSport 08-13-2019 03:06 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Voyager (Post 21804107)
Unless I get paid for doing it, it isn't a job. Grocery store checkout people are not going to be eliminated anytime soon since you need to be 21 to buy alcohol. The gas pumpers of old have become convenience store cashiers, and there are a lot fewer of them.

Right, but the gas station attendants never had to be there, right? They were there as a service and that service has been taken away -- it wasn't due to automation. That's really my point. Unless you mean some early gas pumps that had to be pumped by hand or something? Before my time. It's like saying free meals in economy flights have been automated away -- no, they just stopped providing them. Same with the gas station attendants.

It's funny, because in NJ, we have people who pump our gas, but you generally can't buy alcohol in grocery stores, so those could be automated away. Of the dozens of supermarkets near me, I can only think of two that sell beer, wine, or liquor.

DPRK 08-13-2019 03:27 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by RitterSport (Post 21803148)
How about typesetters? Does anyone actually lay out type anymore?

Sure they do; they just use computer software. Physical, movable type is relegated to boutique projects.

neutro 08-13-2019 03:41 PM

There are exceptions for almost every job listed. Elevator operators? I still have seen a couple of them in the last year (in tourist tower type things).

Telephone operators still exist within a lot of companies to direct calls to the appropriate department. Certainly banks of people on the phone are still common although they aren't physically moving wires around.

Home milk delivery is available in my area and we've even used it.

Keypunch operators are gone, but generically they were data entry of which there is still a ton.

Overall it's hard to find jobs that are completely eliminated. Harder still if you look worldwide (e.g. not every cow on earth is attached to a machine).

Overall this automation thing is kinda BS. We are really good at optimizing mass production but we suck at optimizing anything bespoke. You can automate a factor to use less labor and get more output per input of labor, but machines require a lot of maintenance. So you can produce more product cheaper and sell more but you can't necessarily apply this to things not made in a factory.

Qadgop the Mercotan 08-13-2019 04:12 PM

No more professional Knocker-uppers thanks to reliable alarm clocks.

scr4 08-13-2019 04:22 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Voyager (Post 21804107)
Grocery store checkout people are not going to be eliminated anytime soon since you need to be 21 to buy alcohol.

There are tobacco & alcohol vending machines all over Japan, and many/most have age verification. Older ones use ID cards issued by the tobacco industry. Newer ones can read the standard driver's license. Some use facial recognition to estimate the customer's age.

scr4 08-13-2019 04:29 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by RitterSport (Post 21804303)
Right, but the gas station attendants never had to be there, right? They were there as a service and that service has been taken away -- it wasn't due to automation.

Self-service gas stations require some automation, unless you want to go to a totally honor system (let the customer tell the cashier how much gas they put in). And I think it was the automated pumps with built-in credit card readers that finally made the gas station attendants obsolete.

campp 08-13-2019 04:38 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Akaj (Post 21803547)
Why would autonomous trains be more difficult than autonomous trucks? Trucks on the highway have far more variables to manage than trains on rails. Trains don't have other trains changing lanes in front of them. They don't even have to steer.

Because a 12,000 foot long vehicle that weighs thousands of times what one truck does, all while going up and down hills, and because it can't stop really quickly.

Drone trucks? OK, let's see how that goes for a few years. Drone trains? I'm just positing it is quite a bit more difficult to control trains without continuous organic feedback.

Miller 08-13-2019 04:44 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by campp (Post 21804456)
Because a 12,000 foot long vehicle that weighs thousands of times what one truck does, all while going up and down hills, and because it can't stop really quickly.

How would that make automation harder, though?

WildaBeast 08-13-2019 05:13 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by RitterSport (Post 21803148)
Leaffan had a good one with airline navigators -- there used to always be three people in the cockpit. I think the last plane that needed that were older 747s, right?

That third person in the cockpit was actually the flight engineer. But I believe there was a time even longer ago when there were four people in the cockpit: two pilots, a flight engineer, and a navigator*. Around the 1950s or 60s technology eliminated the need for full time navigators in the cockpit, although I've read that at least in some countries pilots were expected to know how to used a sextant and navigate by stars into the 1970s.

Meanwhile, I believe the flight engineer's job was to monitor and manage the various systems on the plane during the flight, although not being a pilot I don't know exactly what that entailed. Automation eliminated this job on pretty much any plane designed from the 1980s on. There are probably still a handful of older 747 and DC-10s and such flying for cargo companies that require flight engineers, but these days the crewmember filling the flight engineer is simple a lower ranking pilot. It used to be that "professional flight engineer" was a career unto itself that didn't require being a pilot, but rather having a detailed knowledge of the plane's systems.

*If you've ever seen the old Twilight Zone episode "The Odyssey of Flight 33", they actually portray a 707 with 5 men (of course they were all men, it was the 1960s) in the cockpit. It seemed like they were supposed to be captain, first officer, flight engineer, navigator, and radio operator. I suspect this was dramatic license; I'm not aware of any commercial aircraft having that many people in the cockpit, at least in the jet age. I think a WWII era bomber would have been crewed that way, though, so maybe that's where the writers got that idea.

begbert2 08-13-2019 05:13 PM

Haven't seen those dudes who go around each evening lighting the gas street lamps for a while.

WildaBeast 08-13-2019 05:23 PM

Secretaries aren't completely gone, but many of the duties they used to perform (taking phone messages, managing the boss's calendar, etc.) are now performed my technologies like voicemail and Microsoft Outlook.

Ethilrist 08-13-2019 05:27 PM

Cotton picking.

thorny locust 08-13-2019 05:27 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Little Nemo (Post 21803006)
I think this points to a useful distinction. I'm sure there are people who own a cow or two and milk them by hand. But I doubt there's anyone who hires somebody to milk cows. At most, there may be some people who work as general farm hands who milk a cow as a part of their job.

There used to be people who milked cows for a living. But any dairy farm that's producing enough milk nowadays to make it a full-time job is going to have automated milking. So while milking cows by hand still exists, the job of milking cows by hand has been eliminated.

Milking machines don't mean that no humans are involved. Humans are needed not only to deal with the machinery, but to attach and detach equipment, clean udders, check for mastitis, clean equipment -- there's plenty of other stuff. Hand milking of a particular cow is sometimes necessary. Dairy farms hire milkers all the time.

scr4 08-13-2019 05:55 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by campp (Post 21803205)
Will the future bring crew-less trains? Probably. Eventually. Right now it's an order of magnitude more difficult than the current driver-less big rigs on the highway. We'll see.

There are already crew-less commuter trains, like the Copenhagen Metro, and even a heavy haul rail network in Australia.

Voyager 08-14-2019 12:37 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by scr4 (Post 21804435)
There are tobacco & alcohol vending machines all over Japan, and many/most have age verification. Older ones use ID cards issued by the tobacco industry. Newer ones can read the standard driver's license. Some use facial recognition to estimate the customer's age.

There used to be tobacco vending machines all over the US. But groceries still sold cigarettes. I doubt they will return in the US due to the potential for abuse, as a kid borrows a license from a parent to buy cigs.

Voyager 08-14-2019 12:44 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by WildaBeast (Post 21804535)
Secretaries aren't completely gone, but many of the duties they used to perform (taking phone messages, managing the boss's calendar, etc.) are now performed my technologies like voicemail and Microsoft Outlook.

When I first became a manager at Bell Labs three managers shared a secretary. 30 years later one secretary supported a vice president and his 150 reports, and she wasn't busy at all, and not from lack of trying to find something to do.

People typed their own reports and memos. Tons of the paperwork they used to do, like time reports and vacation reports, are now done by apps. People book their own travel on line using the website of the company travel agent. Conference room booking is done online. No screening of visitors. The head of the entire Microelectronics division had an office with a secretary outside, but none of the VPs under him.

But the job is not likely to ever go away, just be limited to support for very high level execs.

Author Balk 08-14-2019 12:53 PM

I've been in IT for many years. What I do changes about every five years, even if I have the same position. I can come up with a lot of things that people don't do anymore (like making those rell tapes they used on mainframe computers), but I have never seen anybody lose their job because of automation. But, people have their job responsibilities change all the time.

PoppaSan 08-14-2019 07:17 PM

Iceman, fill the boilers on steamships, pick up horse apples on Main Street, hand stack pallets at a factory, hand mill all the tiny metal components of almost anything you use, hand carve thread screws, duplicate a manuscript by hand, pony express rider, collect leeches for the local medical practitioner.
tl;dr technological obsolescence of positions has been occurring for centuries.

WildaBeast 08-14-2019 07:29 PM

Longshoreman is another one that while not totally eliminated, now thanks to containerized shipping one worker with a crane can load or unload a ship, a job that used to require dozens of workers loading/unloading individual crates.

jaycat 08-14-2019 09:05 PM

Paste-up artists. Yes I was once one of these. Although the legacy lives on in the quaint expression "cut and paste."

Melbourne 08-14-2019 09:36 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by WildaBeast (Post 21804515)
*If you've ever seen the old Twilight Zone episode "The Odyssey of Flight 33", they actually portray a 707 with 5 men (of course they were all men, it was the 1960s) in the cockpit. It seemed like they were supposed to be captain, first officer, flight engineer, navigator, and radio operator. I suspect this was dramatic license; I'm not aware of any commercial aircraft having that many people in the cockpit, at least in the jet age. I think a WWII era bomber would have been crewed that way, though, so maybe that's where the writers got that idea.

I recently noticed that the Kee Bird, B-29 Superfortress, 1947, had both a navigator and an astro-navigator. Astro-navigation has been replaced by gps: navigation has been simplified to the extent that the Captain does it.

Recently retired from my local government was a women who started as a tracer. Tracing plans. A job that was eliminated by various kinds of photocopying, and the people who used to maintain the plan library and do the photocopying have now been eliminated by on-demand printing.

In addition to the automated trains, there are now automated ports and automated mines. The last step of going fully automated is one small step for man, one big step for mankind, because you don't have to make the workplace safe for humans anymore. No fully automated ships I know of.

Once they get the fully automated mines connected by the fully automated trains to the fully automated ports loading the fully automated ships to the fully automated factories, the next step will be eliminating the consumers :)


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