Ditch Your Dying Career for a Dirty Job Instead

How secure is your job in a world of artificial intelligence? Technology is putting many careers on the endangered list, but some jobs just can’t be done by bots.

A man in a hardhat smiles.
(Image credit: Getty Images)

I recently wrote an article about Dying Careers, and many of you were outraged, saying that the careers I mentioned were not going to disappear. My goal was to explain that in order to be part of the new world of work, you have to be part of the new world of work. The advent of the smart computer is here to stay and will supplant many of your careers.

Hiding your head in the sand will not help you to hold onto your job. Wake up. Google, Amazon, Apple and Microsoft are spending billions on AI products and services. MIT alone is spending $1 billion on a new college devoted solely to computing, with an AI focus, not-to-mention the billions that the U.S. government is pouring into AI research and development.

Naysayers of the future of AI – I defy you to tell me a major modern industry that has not been affected by AI. That was my point. If you don’t adapt to this new world and the skills that it demands, you will be left behind.

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You can hang on to your vinyl records, video cassettes, princess phone and typewriter, but if you ignore developments in technology with your own career, you may end up as out-of-work as the sales clerk at Blockbuster who was waiting for Netflix to fail.

The jobs that will disappear seem to share characteristics: They manufacture products or supply services that involve repetitive skills, are simple to automate, and are prone to fluctuate with demand (like creating books on demand, or other products where retailers don’t want to carry inventory).

Like it or not, AI (Artificial Intelligence) is here to stay and is taking quantum (no pun intended) leaps every day. AI is basically intelligence demonstrated by machines, as opposed to natural intelligence demonstrated by humans. Applications include web search (Google); recommendation systems (YouTube, Amazon and Netflix); understanding human speech (Siri and Alexa); self-driving cars (Tesla and Pony.ai); and even competing at strategic games (chess or racing-car games). AI machines can even learn from each other, and they can see and detect things much better than a human can.

Which Careers Could Be in Jeopardy Due to AI

Let’s look at some careers that may be in jeopardy. Let’s look a little further into what AI can and can’t do and how you can prepare for the inevitable:

Doctors/health care

AI can search data and input past and current diagnostic tests, like blood pressure, heart rates, BMI - height/weight, CT scans, EKG, bloodwork, etc. But now suppose an AI-enabled device could tap into genetic history? Suppose a digital instrument could assess and order all of the tests needed? And then instantaneously search globally for data on all other people with the same symptoms? Then suppose it could tell what protocols were used for treatment and their outcomes?

Diseases could be more quickly diagnosed and treatments found, drugs or other treatments could be recommended, virtual nurses could monitor the patients, and this could all be done via big data collection and dissemination. Like it or not, that is the future of medicine. AI will be able to collect and analyze patient data gathered from multiple sources. These data collectors will also be able to commingle data from fitness trackers, at-home monitors and any tests administered. No one doctor can do that. And some need for certain doctors may even disappear. For instance, it’s conceivable that much of the work performed by radiologists, pathologists and cardiologists may soon be replaced by machines.

What AI can’t do, thus far, is to read the psychological state of the patient and to see beyond the tests. There are also medical situations in neurology, for instance that require high-level patient-doctor interaction and critical thinking. I’m not sure I’d be comfortable with just a robot’s input to interpret a challenge in my life. Will doctors still be needed? I think, yes. But not in all cases. On the positive side, AI will make health care more accessible to the masses.

If you are in health care, what can you do? Get computer savvy. That means you have to get ahead of the trends, including AI diagnostic tools, shared research, big data and telehealth. Med schools have recognized this trend and they are also focusing some of their curricula on technology. In fact, the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai now offers a new Ph.D. concentration in AI and Emerging Technologies in Medicine.


It is thought that autonomous vehicles may be commercially available and legal in some places by the late 2020s. The initial costs will probably be high. Like most innovation, the initial products are expensive but as the acceptance and manufacturing costs shrink, so will the price tag. Remember the first electronic calculator, the Bowmar Brain? It originally sold for $245 in 1971 (which equates to almost $1,700 today), when it was a revolutionary new product. Within a decade, similar calculators sold for $10.

If you’re a driver, what can you do? Jobs are also created with automation. You can learn the skills to build and maintain the tools for automation.


The U.S. has lost over 60 million jobs to robots, and AI is projected to take millions more. The World Economic Forum (WEF) has indicated that there is a potential to have AI replace a large portion of existing human jobs. Depressed? Read on: Data shows that as many as 73 million jobs could be lost in the U.S. due to automation moving forward.

If you’re a factory worker, what can you do? Upskill. Again, learn the skills necessary to build and maintain those robots. Engineering is a great field with lots of demand. Rather than complaining, look into retraining. Many companies will pay for workers to be retrained in new skills. Software company Element AI estimated that in 2019 there were around 144,000 AI-related job openings, but only about 26,000 developers and specialists seeking work. There is a company called Retrain.ai that “… uses AI and machine learning to help governments and organizations retrain and upskill talent for jobs of the future, enable diversity initiatives, and help employees and jobseekers to manage their careers.”


If the town library does not catch up, evolve and lead the way for the new digital age, it will be left behind to die. The Dewey Decimal System is a relic and so is that wonderful librarian with leather elbow patches on his cardigan sweater. Google has eaten into their kingdom shrouded with ink and paper.

If you’re a library professional, what can you do? The role of the library has to be reinvented. If you are a person studying library science and the curricula has not been redesigned … run. Libraries are publicly funded to a large degree, so they need to be considered a “public-service” provider. What does that mean? They can fix some of the things that are broken in the community. Currently, neither wide-ranging digital access nor community gathering places for education are available for all people. Libraries have to be the new community center of inclusion and technology offering the best in the new digital world of research, family entertainment and access to innovation. Am I saying that they have to morph into remediating institutions? Yes.

What Jobs Can’t Be Done by Bots (Yet)?

The messy ones. So, I think if you get your hands dirty in your job (literally or figuratively), your job-security is safe — for now. Some messy jobs:


AI is being used in many trades, in fact, robots can even lay bricks. Architectural plans are being created by AI. But the messy, hands-on work of plumbing and electrical work will still have to be done by humans, for now. I haven’t met a bot that is willing to stick its metal arm down my clogged toilet, but I can still count on my friendly plumber to do so.

Car/truck mechanic

Speaking of messy. AI can diagnose the cars’ problem via its computer system and may even recommend a solution. But for now, a human has to roll up their sleeves, crawl under that car and fix that chassis or even a flat tire.

Funeral directors

I don’t envision AI stepping into this role. Machines can dig graves, but they can’t comfort families.


It seems really strange to tell a robot about your dysfunctional family life. Or even worse, listen to their advice.


No robot can dye or cut hair or talk-the-talk of your hairdresser. For now, it’s creepy to think of gossiping with a machine (unless they can dish-the-dirt).


The research and case preparation are being done now, more and more by AI, so that will cut down on the number of lawyers needed. That being said, it’s hard to envision a robot arguing for you in court. However, you might want to stay clear of the administration part of this field, as you will be competing with the digital world.

Remember the saying, “The best way to predict the future is to create it.”


This article was written by and presents the views of our contributing adviser, not the Kiplinger editorial staff. You can check adviser records with the SEC or with FINRA.

Neale Godfrey, Financial Literacy Expert
President & CEO, Children's Financial Network Inc.

Neale Godfrey is a New York Times #1 best-selling author of 27 books, which empower families (and their kids and grandkids) to take charge of their financial lives. Godfrey started her journey with The Chase Manhattan Bank, joining as one of the first female executives, and later became president of The First Women's Bank and founder of The First Children's Bank. Neale pioneered the topic of "kids and money," which took off after her 13 appearances on "The Oprah Winfrey Show." www.nealegodfrey.com