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Do you like your job? Better question — do you like being employed and collecting a paycheck? I'm betting so. It's why job creation is such a big part of the current political climate at every level.

And I'm scared. Because they're coming. For your job. And mine. And a whole lot of other people's.

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They've been decimating the manufacturing industry for decades. Now they're learning how to do other jobs. And while they might not be as good at those jobs as we are right now, they're getting there. They're efficient. They'll work for cheap. And they're on their way, probably from a foreign country, right now.

Of course, I'm talking about robots.

Since 1979, when manufacturing employment peaked in the United States, the Commerce Department reports that the industry's production has doubled to $1.91 trillion in 2015. Based on that, you'd think that manufacturing would be rife with employment opportunities. Of course, it's not. More than 7 million factory jobs have been lost in those 36 years, according to a recent Associated Press article.

NATO, NAFTA, the TPP and a host of other alphabet soup trade agreements shoulder some of the blame for some of those lost jobs. But nothing has been more devastating to American workers than the rise of the robots.

Automation and other factors that reduce factories' needs for human labor accounted for 88 percent of those disappearing manufacturing jobs, according to a recent Ball State University study.

White-collar jobs are next on the list.

Shelly Palmer, the CEO of the eponymous business development and creative services firm, and a regular commentator on CNN and CNBC on matters of technology and digital media, recently published a series of articles entitled "The 5 Jobs Robots Will Take First" and "The 5 Jobs Robots Will Take Last."

The first ones to go: middle management; commodity salespeople; report writers, journalists (yay!), authors and announcers; accountants and bookkeepers; and doctors.

That's right, you might want to reconsider your chosen profession before spending all that money on medical school.

Robots, or artificial intelligence, are already doing some of these things. For example, robots already perform a range of operations from knee replacement to vision correction with, ahem, surgical precision, and have been doing so since the turn of the century to the tune of more than 2 million procedures, according to MSN. Of course, replacing doctors with robots might not be the worst thing, since the world's population is expected to far outpace the number of people who want to be doctors. And their hands would still be just as cold.

Middle management white-collar jobs are first on the T-1000's hit list. "If your main job function is taking a number from one box in Excel and putting it in another box in Excel and writing a narrative about how the number got from place to place, robots are knocking at your door," Palmer writes.

Palmer notes that machine-learning accounting is still in its infancy, but once further developed, it's going to be better at keeping track of finances than human accountants or bookkeepers, the market will dictate using robots instead. Think TurboTax on steroids. Accountants will be reduced to dressing up in costume and dancing on the side of the road to advertise that their robot can do your taxes better than the other guy's robot.

My job might be safe for now (sorry), but other journalists – particularly in sports and business – could be replaced by machines that read data and analyze research to create readable documents. Sports announcers may also be out of a gig soon, according to Palmer, meaning there's one bright side to all of this: We'll never have to hear Cris Collinsworth say "here's a guy who…" in his nails-on-chalkboard voice again.

Speaking of sports and chalkboards, among the five jobs Palmer expects to be replaced last are professional athletes and elementary and preschool teachers.

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He argues that humans will need to play sports so long as we strive for athletic excellence. But could offensive coordinators be replaced by automated playcallers? Who would Ravens fans blame for the team's shortcomings then? And I still think Bill Belichick could outscheme robo-coach. Come to think of it, has anyone checked to make sure Belichick isn't a robot? It would explain the sleeveless sweatshirts in the New England winters and how he hasn't slept in 20 years.

Educators, Palmer says, will still need to be human for our youngest learners — assuming we want our children to be human and not little robots themselves. But once they get to middle school, they're on their own, I guess. This is good news for county commissioners who want to spend fewer dollars on education. The robots, presumably, won't be part of any teachers' unions.

Politicians, unfortunately, are also on Palmer's list of jobs unlikely to be replaced by robots any time soon, which is kind of remarkable when you consider how predictable most politicians are. (We could still have elections, we'd just vote whether to flip the switch on the back from D to R or vice-versa.) Politicians would also have the ability to legislate job security. Much like health care, though, I suspect Congress will take care of themselves before the rest of us.

Long story short: manual or cognitively repetitive jobs are going to be replaced soon, but you'll be safer if you do non-repetitive work, whether it's blue- or white-collar. Future jobs will require human intuition, reason, empathy and emotion, so brush up on those skills, why don't cha?

In the meantime, try not to panic. Jobs will be there, they'll just be different. A Fortune magazine article notes that "technology actually created more jobs than it destroyed in the last 144 years — saving many people from dull, repetitive and dangerous work."

Never stop learning, and take a keen interest in what your job might look like when the robots come. Just like now, our ability to adapt and evolve is what will keep us employed.

Wayne Carter is the editor of the Carroll County Times. Reach him at wayne.carter@carrollcountytimes.com.



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