The robots are coming! Nine industries impacted by tech innovations

There was a time when movies and pop culture predicted that the machines were coming and they would wipe out the human species. But if recent tech innovations are any indication, they're not coming for us...they're coming for our jobs. Tahiat Mahboob

The robots aren’t coming. They’re here. And they haven’t come for us. They’re here for our jobs. According to the documentary The AI Race, even medical specialities that require a lot of training like oncology, can be assisted by robotics.

Technological disruptions have become so commonplace that in May 2017, two developers built a website called "Will Robots Take My Job?" to help people get a sense of what jobs are most at risk.

Asking a “robot” if robots will take our jobs — no the irony is not lost on us.

Watch: The AI Race

The taxi industry was revolutionized after apps like Uber and Lyft were invented. Similarly hotels and motels were impacted by AirBNB and HomeAway. But it doesn’t stop there. Here are nine industries that have been disrupted by technological innovations.


Artificial intelligence (AI), automated data entry, cloud storage, softwares that favour a DIY approach and web tutorials have made it possible for many businesses to tackle their own accounting needs. According to an interactive tool launched by NPR based on research from Oxford University, there is nearly a 94% probability of some accounting and auditing jobs becoming automated in the next 20 years.

Book Sales and Publishing

When Jeff Bezos founded Amazon in 1994, he intended for it to be “Earth’s biggest bookstore” and he succeeded. The convenience of browsing books from the comfort of your home and having them delivered to your doorstep at competitive prices took a heavy toll on brick-and-mortar bookstores. Similarly, Wikipedia came in and made those thick, leather-bound encyclopedias obsolete. E-books and tablets gave us the ability to own thousands of books without taking up any physical space. And being able to self-publish and to distribute e-books is taking a toll on publishers and printers.

Consumer Banking

From depositing a cheque by simply taking a picture of it, to money transfers and payments from your phone, numerous financial technology (fintech) apps now allow customers to minimize the amount of time they physically spend at a bank, dealing with a bank teller. According to a 2016 PricewaterhouseCoopers Global FinTech Survey, consumer banking and fund transfers & payments are likely to be the most disrupted sectors by 2020.


Insurance technology (insurtech) startups are giving insurance services tough competition. According to a September 2017 World Insurance Report created by the consulting firm Capgemini and the non-profit Efma, nearly one third (31.4%) of customers relied on insurtech solutions - either exclusively or in combination with an established insurance company. Insurtech aims to simplify and improve the efficiency of insurance and provide customers with a more personalized experience. Many insurance apps offer policy comparisons; others facilitate communication and claims between drivers and their insurance companies. Some even target younger users and insure their three most valuable items (for instance laptop, camera, bike) at a very low cost.

Investment and Trading

Unlike traditional brokerages, which take fees on a per-trade basis, a number of financial apps now allow people to delve into investments without having to rely on a middle man. Instead robo-advisors like Betterment, Wealthfront and WealthSimple, online investment brokers like Robinhood and Stash, and spare change investment platforms like Acorns, that require just a few dollars, help people manage their wealth and make informed investment decisions straight from their phone. According to a 2017 Business Insider Intelligence forecast report, robo-advisors — investment products that include any element of automation — will manage around US$1 trillion by 2020, and around US $4.6 trillion by 2022.


Newspapers and magazines took a hit when web publishing gained popularity. Another wave of disruption followed after smart devices, social media platforms and news apps became ubiquitous, reshaping how people consume news. So far, much of the disruption that happened affected delivery and format. But most recently, AI has broken into the business of reporting. In 2016, the Associated Press announced that it would be using automated software to write stories for 10,000 Minor League Baseball games not previously covered by the news organization. Other organizations like the Los Angeles Times and Bloomberg are also starting to adopt AI. With publishers struggling with decreasing newspaper circulation and the change to online advertising, “robo-journalism” is gaining popularity in newsrooms worldwide.


Between MRI and CT scans now being stored digitally and numerous companies including IBM, Google and GE, trying to develop medical algorithms so that medical images can be diagnosed, radiology seems quite susceptible to a digital takeover. In a conversation with NPR, Dr. Bob Wachter, an internist at UCSF said that radiology is particularly amenable to takeover by AI-like machine learning.

"Radiology, at its core, is now a human being, based on learning and his or her own experience, looking at a collection of digital dots and a digital pattern and saying 'That pattern looks like cancer or looks like tuberculosis or looks like pneumonia,' " he said. "Computers are awfully good at seeing patterns."


With the rise of self-checkout kiosks, the future looks bleak for cashiers. According to a June 2016 report by The Brookfield Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, retail salespeople and cashiers are among the top five jobs most at risk from automation. Numerous retailers like Canadian Tire, Shoppers Drugmart, Sobey’s and Walmart have already started introducing self-checkout machines at select locations and Amazon's first checkout-free grocery store opened up in Seattle in January 2018.


With the rise of travel websites like Expedia, Kayak and Trivago, the demand for human travel agents has gone down. And these just cover the basics such as flights, hotels and car rentals. There are even specialized apps and websites that help plan specific types of travel such as road trips or send you alerts about things that might impact your travel plans such as disease outbreaks or violent protests.

Available on CBC Gem

The AI Race

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