10 jobs lost to technology



In an era obsessed with technology innovation, it’s impossible to avoid disruption. We face constant changes in the way we live and work.

One such change is in the jobs that we do from day to day. Technology is absorbing, reducing or changing some jobs once widespread. But is that such a bad thing?

Here are ten examples of jobs lost to technology.


1.      Human computers

Before electronic computers, a human computer would complete complex mathematical calculations by hand.

This involved using pencils, countless notebooks and weeks of time for each calculation. Often more than one team would complete the calculations to avoid inaccuracies. As such, while impressive, this was an extremely inefficient way to complete calculations.


2.      Pin boys

When you go bowling nowadays, you probably give little mind to the machines that reset the bowling pins. This was a task once completed by humans, and another of the jobs lost to technology.

In short, humans aren’t risking getting hit by bowling balls anymore.


3.      Lift operators

When lifts were young, they weren’t as easy to operate as they are today. You couldn’t simply press a button for the lift to stop at the floor you want. Instead, a lift operator would need to manually stop the lift, timing it for each floor.

When technology improved, lifts no longer needed human help finding the right place to stop each time. And so, ‘lift operator’ became another of the jobs lost to technology.


4.      Switchboard operators

Once upon a time, there existed a job where a human employee would physically connect calls. They operated the switchboard, inserting phone plugs into the relevant jacks to connect a call.

Now, switchboard systems are largely automated. Technology evolved to save humans from a tedious and hectic job.


5.      Cashiers

Increasingly, cashiers hold another of the jobs lost to technology. Specifically, self-service technology. Online shopping started to reduce the demand for physical cashiers. Customers instead complete the process themselves.

In physical stores, self-service machines let customers check out their items themselves. In most cases, a human instead reassures the machines that yes, the customer has put the item in the bagging area.

As technology progresses and checkout-less shops become more viable, cashier jobs will continue to drop. 


6.      Factory workers

Factories, no matter how well regulated and managed, are not the safest places to be. There are many hazards to avoid and plenty of tedium to slog through.

As such, whether it’s operating machinery or tedious assembly line work, automation technology has taken over. While machines reduce the risk and tedium, humans now maintain and monitor the machines.


7.      Warehouse workers

Moving, loading and offloading goods — even packaging them — requires little of the human touch. As such, working in a warehouse is another example of the jobs lost to technology.

Robots and automation technology now handle more and more of these jobs. As a result, packages and products reach consumers faster.


8.      Data-entry clerks

In the office, meanwhile, automation software is taking on manual data entry tasks. It can parse, extract, transform and load your data into databases.

This saves your human team from death by admin and your databases from human error. So, your team can focus on more interesting work, and your database remains accurate and up to date.


9.      Bank tellers

The first instance of some bank teller jobs lost to technology came with the introduction of the ATM (automated teller machine) in the 1960s.

Add to this the rise of online banking, robo-advisors and financial chatbots, as well as contactless card payments. As technology improves, there’s less and less need for human tellers at the bank. Most banking customers instead serve themselves.

In return for the job of bank teller, we gain more accessibility, control and convenience when we manage our money.


10.   Travel agents

Thanks to online comparison sites, travel agents are facing reduced demand. Holidaymakers have grown accustomed to planning, putting together and booking their own holidays. As this trend grows, travel agents grow increasingly redundant in tandem.


Not all doom and gloom

Technology is eliminating jobs, reducing the demand for certain jobs, and changing the tasks other jobs entail. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

For every job absorbed by technology, there’s a positive outcome — from reduced costs to increased safety. For each job reduced by technology, comes improved accessibility and convenience. For the jobs changed by technology, there’s less tedium holding employees back.

Add to this the jobs added by technology, and it’s plain to see — for all the jobs lost to technology, there’s a host of benefits brought by technology.


Useful links

The awkward interplay of man vs machine

Ten future jobs already here thanks to automation

Technological unemployment: is it lasting?