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Remember the last elevator operator whose company you enjoyed on the trip up to the thirty-eighth floor? No? That’s because he hasn’t had the job for seventy-two years.

One day in the not-so-distant future, it could be we’re making the same wistful comments about farmers. Or sports referees.

There’s always been a certain segment of the workforce whose days of thriving relevance have been numbered. Don’t think a whole whack of weavers didn’t lament the invasion of mechanization. And what of the poor sods who spent their days trading Beany Babies?

But the sombre march of professions making its way to oblivion seems to be traveling a bit faster now, and maybe with a bit more fearful desperation against a backdrop of news sounding warning knells about encroaching automation and invading robots.

Herewith, the nine jobs most vulnerable to obsolescence.

Paralegals and legal assistants

Because these guys spend much of their days doing repetitive tasks, their jobs are at particular peril of being crushed beneath the automation wave.

Travel agents

Long gone are the days when folks would don their finest and head for the travel agency to sit across a desk from a professional who planned their carriage to exotic locales. More likely now you’re slumped at your laptop in your jammies.

Line cooks

Immigrants nothing, it was Flippy, an AI burger flipper who stole the low-level job of the local teenager. And there are lots more where he came from.

Financial analysts

According to The Economist, computers will soon be able to analyze and compare reams of data to make financial decisions. Better still, they’ll do it with less possibility for fraud.


The highly routine nature of the telemarketing task means it won’t be long before robots are behind allthe dinnertime phone calls interrupting your meatloaf.


From cabbies to couriers, delivery services to truckers, the days for folks who make their livings behind the wheel are numbered. Bring on the drones and self-driving cars!


High-tech farming techniques are pushing the need for traditional farmers into the fields. The next generation of these pros might perform more like scientists and biologists than their dirt-under-fingernails predecessors did.


Anybody who’s been in a store over the last five years has watched the rise of the self-checkout phenom. Amazon’s even got stores that don’t have checkout lines. Watch for more.

Sports officials and referees

With enough sensors and circuitry watching the action on the field, the need for flesh-and-blood adjudicators gets sunk.

Futurist and author Martin Ford explains in his book Rise of the Robots: Technology and the Threat of a Jobless Futurethat the jobs most at risk are those that “are on some level routine, repetitive and predictable.” Wonder if we could press the case for making obsolete the job of president of a certain large industrialized nation. . . .