Will Plumbers Get Replaced By Machines?

That would seem to be the implication by a computer scientist at Rice University, who predicts that by 2045 machines will be capable of doing almost any job a human can. This is based on the rate of progress in artificial intelligence (AI), that is, computers programmed to think like people do.

I don’t buy it. I’m in awe of the advances being made in AI, which seem to be bringing us to the verge of driverless cars just a few years down the road. At the same time, it wasn’t too long ago when so-called futurists predicted that by now we would be zipping around in hovercraft autos and robots would be doing all of our household chores. An old plumbing industry trade magazine published an article in 1955 touting the coming era of nuclear-powered residential boilers that would be heating homes without cost once installed! This was around the time we were building commercial nuclear reactors helter-skelter and hearing about a time when electricity would be too cheap to meter.

The future no doubt will be filled with wondrous things. Nobody envisioned the internet a half-century ago. It’s not too far-fetched to believe that machines may learn to pre-fabricate plumbing systems in new construction, yet it will be much harder to program a device to duplicate all the complex diagnostics and problem-solving that takes place in plumbing service call. At least that’s what I think.

I’m not the only one who thinks this way. Check out this interview with an author who wrote The Rise of the Robots. A key excerpt is below:

“Some of the safest jobs are going to be areas like being an electrician or a plumber or maybe a car mechanic because it’s really hard to build a robot that can do all of those things.”

This is something often overlooked by young people looking for a rewarding career. The news media has filled us with stories about factory jobs being lost to foreign outsourcing, but even more have been lost to automation over the years. The Rise of the Robots contends that more and more jobs we think as secure will be lost over the years.

But not plumbers, at least not anytime soon. Anyone yearning for job security ought to take a close look at entering our trade. If you know of anyone interested, tell them to give us a call.