Assuming advancing AI and computing according to Moore's Law for the next two to three decades, are there any kinds of jobs that can't be automated?

If not, why not?

Please refer to specific attempts to model skills or abilities. (e.g: Watson, playing games, writing, making art or music, purchasing or management tools, kinds of useful chatbots, etc.)

  • $\begingroup$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. $\endgroup$
    – Tim B
    Commented Oct 12, 2016 at 9:22
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    $\begingroup$ The job of automating the jobs can't be automated. A computer becomes as powerful as a human when it becomes capable of designing a computer. 'The question of whether computers think is about as interesting as the question as to whether submarines swim' (Dijkstra). $\endgroup$
    – user207421
    Commented Oct 12, 2016 at 9:24
  • $\begingroup$ I would point out that the question mentions AI, but doesn't limit the discussion to "AI". The question is only if a job can or cannot be automated. A job may be automated without recourse to AI. $\endgroup$
    – user24000
    Commented Oct 12, 2016 at 17:38
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    $\begingroup$ Charting the Automation Potential of U.S. Jobs, Is your job at risk from robot labor? $\endgroup$
    – J...
    Commented Oct 13, 2016 at 17:10
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    $\begingroup$ @EJP Genetic algorithms? RNNs? Computers can pretty much independently automate many jobs by now using weird combinations of tricks we could not really think of if asked, yet I wouldn't call them equal to humans. $\endgroup$
    – The Vee
    Commented Oct 15, 2016 at 22:50

31 Answers 31



One example: The task of automating jobs cannot be automated.

On a more serious note, the idea that Moore's Law or advancing technology will ever replace humanity (especially in the next century) is flawed. The human brain is one of the most, if not the most, complex organ in the world. To replace ourselves, we have to fully understand ourselves. And we understand so little of our brains, our genetics, our role in the world. Essentially, to be completely replaced by AI, we'd have to know everything God knows about ourselves and the ever-changing world we live in. It's not going to happen. Humanity is imperfect, and as such, our creations will be as well. (Is there such a thing as an un-hackable computer?)

We have machines that build cars and airplanes, but they are not perfect, and they still fall apart or break down. The machines we build to replace our jobs are always breaking down. It's a never-ending cycle that we will never solve. Honestly though, even if we did eliminate our jobs somehow, don't you think humanity would hate that? People want more jobs, not less. How would people get food or money without jobs? Whoever invented those job-replacing robots would be insanely rich, and they'd use their power to get richer and stay rich. Everyone else gets poorer because of it.

In short, to replace anything, one must understand everything.

Here's a great article for further reading on the subject: The 'Jobless Future' Is A Myth

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    $\begingroup$ We don't need to know exactly how the human brain works in order to make the robot do better than humans at most jobs. Replacing horses with tractors to plow fields requires no knowledge of horse anatomy. $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 12, 2016 at 15:41
  • $\begingroup$ @DonaldHobson That's only because the horse is doing such a simple job. The jobs we are talking about replacing here are jobs that so far only humans can do. $\endgroup$
    – mbomb007
    Commented Oct 12, 2016 at 20:44
  • $\begingroup$ Your argument is flawed. You're suggesting that we can never replace anything because we must understand everything to do so. So, for example, I couldn't write a program to automatically backup my files to a cloud server every night at midnight (instead of doing it manually) because no one understands what makes humans sentient. $\endgroup$
    – Frostfyre
    Commented Oct 15, 2016 at 14:42
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    $\begingroup$ @Frostfyre You're misunderstanding. Your program to automatically backup your files may fail sometime in the future due to updates that invalidate your script. I'm not talking about replacing something in the short term, but in the long term. $\endgroup$
    – mbomb007
    Commented Oct 17, 2016 at 13:19
  • $\begingroup$ Hello. Your answer looks like a really, really long comment. Only one note of real answer in it. Please remember, that it is about fictional stories, so if OP says something happened - it did. Exceptions are science-based and hard-science, but neither of this gags is used on this question. $\endgroup$
    – Mołot
    Commented Oct 17, 2016 at 14:16

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