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Radiologists: “These are medical doctors that require a tremendous amount of training,” says Martin Ford, a Silicon Valley software developer and author of The Lights in the Tunnel: Automation, Accelerating Technology and the Economy of the Future. “Still, the work is routine and focused on interpreting visual images – and machines are getting better and better at this.”

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Analysts: Insurance risk analysis, underwriting, financial analysis: If it’s “routine work that produces formulaic reports,” says Mr. Ford, it’s ripe for the digital axe.

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Lawyers: Legal research is already becoming automated, and computers are starting to decide if specific legal actions are even worth pursuing. “The practice of law is a rules-based system with elements of game theory,” says Toronto-based futurist and author Richard Worzel, “and both of these play to the strengths of computers.”

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Orderlies: Mr. Worzel sees a time when people wearing “robotic exoskeletons to increase strength and stability” will lift hospital patients – until robots get strong enough to do it all themselves.

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Chemists: As computers do more grunt work, an undergrad degree is no longer a ticket into an entry-level lab assistant gig. “There will be dramatically fewer opportunities for those without a PhD,” warns Mr. Ford, “and even some higher level work done by those with advanced degrees is likely to be affected as the amount of data increases and can be interpreted only algorithmically.”

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Pharmacists: Robots are already able to dispense drugs, if not the expert advice of a pharmacist.

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Truck drivers: Once the legal and insurance issues are ironed out, Mr. Worzel sees robots getting behind the wheel of trucks en masse. “Self-driving cars are currently getting all the attention,” he says, “but the corps of long-distance truck drivers is aging rapidly, and may soon be supplemented by increasingly automated driving systems.” Ditto for trains and urban transit systems.

Chris Bolin/The Globe and Mail

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