There's no arguing the fact that these days we depend on technology for much of our everyday lives. From the moment our phone alarm wakes us up in the morning to the moment we fall asleep watching a film on our iPad, we are connected to our technology in a wide variety of ways. But as technology takes a firm hold on our leisure time, what about our working lives? Over the last hundred years, the world of work has changed immeasurably as machines and robotic tools have taken over many of our less attractive working roles. But what about some more common professions? Here are 10 fields which could well be on the cusp of a technological takeover...
Self-driving cars have long been a common science-fiction feature in portrayals of the future, where personalised pods or tubes transport us to wherever we need to be. But Google has recently taken major steps towards realising this with its own in-house driverless cars project, saying it will rollout major trials over the summer.
However, the search titan isn't the only company developing or trialling driverless technology. Seeing this major consumer interest, manufacturers including Nissan, Volvo and Tesla have all committed towards creating prototypes, with the latter promising to have a commercially available car by 2016.
These prototypes will need to be extremely well-regulated, though, as even one accident could severely impact both public opinion and development. The acting head of America's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recently urged manufacturers like Google to work with the body to ensure they comply with current safety standards.
If the technology does succeed and become widespread, this will almost certainly do away with the need for any exterior drivers, such as taxi drivers and couriers, as personalised services learn about us and take us wherever we need to be.
The robotics industry has taken huge strides over the past decade, spurred on by increased investment particularly in the Far East, home to many of the major manufacturers. In an ageing population, the need to facilities to care for the elderly is quickly become paramount, and several companies have developed robotic solutions to try and solve this.
In Japan, 24 companies, including Toyota, are receiving subsidies covering half to two-thirds of the cost to develop nursing care robotic equipment to help care for their increasing elderly population, with the country forecast to need 2.4 million nursing care workers by 2025. With services ranging from health monitoring to lifting patients (a major cause of physical injury amongst healthcare professionals) to just providing basic company, these robots relieve the burden on human staff and should lead to better quality of care for many.
Significant testing and development still needs to be done in the field, but staff shortages and a growing elderly population mean that we may see robot nurses becoming common quicker than we think.
Somewhat alarmingly (for this writer at least) the age of the human journalist may also soon be at risk - at not just the world of print media. The continued growth of blogs, along with news aggregation services like Flipboard Google News are making the average consumer less reliant on newspapers, and may soon do away with human reporters altogether.
US firm Narrative Science gained lots of attention a few years ago after releasing software that could potentially replace human sports reporters by automatically generating news stories about baseball games. Since then, the Chicago-based company has continued to work on its software, and it's now raised $11.5m to expand into new markets thanks to a new tool it calls Quill.
Quill expands upon the company's original software, and is capable of generating stories from a variety of fields, starting with sports, financial and real-estate news. Having gained significant attention throughout its development, however, Narrative Science is now also expanding Quill into financial services, marketing services and intelligence, and is also training it to generate personalised reports that read like they're written by humans.
These advances could also affect other forms of writing and data input, as software and computers become more intelligent and attuned to the human voice. Court reporters and data entry services could soon be replaced by voice-recognition programs, and personal assistants are increasingly falling out of fashion as people turn to their mobile device to help them organise their schedules and remind them about appointments.