Kai-Fu Lee

Dec 3, 2020

5 min read

Top 10 Safest Jobs from AI

This is a series of 4 articles I am sharing here, for people who are concerned and eager to understand more about job displacement impact potentially caused by artificial intelligence technology. You would read about “safe” versus “endangered” jobs in this series. The jobs listed in each article are demonstrative from my research research and technological knowledge, which may or may not fit into your personal scenario.

I highly encourage readers to take those as references and inspirations, and to start re-imagine and re-strategize your career today with our shared future — powered by AI.

How to determine what jobs are safe/unsafe?

White collar:

  • Repetition vs. strategic:
  1. Does your job have minimal repetition of tasks?
  2. Do you regularly come up with insights that are important to your company?
  3. Do you make key decisions that cross functions for your company?
  • Simplicity vs. complexity:
  1. Do most decisions in your job require complexity or deliberation?
  2. In your job, do you need to regularly learn and understand a lot of complex information?

Blue collar

  • Dexterity vs. repetition:
  1. Does it require at least a year of training to be qualified for your job?
  2. Does your job involve very little repetition of the same task(s)?
  • Fixed vs. unstructured environment
  1. Is your job usually performed in different environments each time? (e.g., a taxi driver would always work in the same taxi)
  2. Is your work environment unstructured?

For all jobs: human-contact / empathy / compassion

  • Is communication and persuasion one of the most important parts of your job?
  • Do you spend >30% of your work time with people who are not employed by your company (e.g., customers, potential customers, partners) ?
  • Is a key part of your job performance measured by how well you interact with people?
  • Does your job result in happiness, safety, or health of those your directly service?
  • Do you lead or manage people in your job?

Top 10 Safest Jobs from AI


Psychiatrists, social workers, marriage counselors are all professions that require strong communication skills, empathy, and the ability to win trust from clients. These are the weakest areas for AI. Also, with the changing times, growing inequality, and job displacements, the need for these services are likely to increase.

Therapists (occupational, physical, massage)

Dexterity is one of the challenges of AI. Physical therapy (such as chiropractics or massage therapy) involves applying very delicate pressures and sensing equally minute responses from the client’s body. In addition, there are added challenges of customizing care for each client, consequences of hurting a client, and the need for person-to-person interaction. The human interaction includes: the ongoing therapy, professional advice, small talk, as well as encouragement and empathy. These aspects make the job impregnable to AI for the short-term.

Medical caregivers (nurses, elderly care)

The overall healthcare industry is expected to grow substantially, due to increased income, greater benefits, AI lowering the cost of care, and aging population (which requires much more care). Many of these reasons will foster a symbiotic environment where AI helps the analytical and repetitive aspects of the healthcare, as more of the healthcare profession shifts to attentiveness, compassion, support, and encouragement.

AI researchers and engineers

As AI grows, there will be a jump in the market demand for AI professionals. Gartner estimates that in the next few years, these increases will outnumber the jobs replaced. However, one needs to keep in mind, AI tools are getting better so that some of the entry-level positions in AI will be automated over time as well. AI professionals will need to keep up with the changes, just like over the years software engineers had to learn about assembly language, high-level language, object-oriented programming, mobile programming, and now AI programming.

Fiction writers

Story-telling is one of the highest levels of creativity, which AI will be weak. Writers have to ideate, create, engage, and write with style and beauty. In particular, a great fictional book has original ideas, interesting characters, engaging plot, surprising emotions and poetic language. All of these are hard to replicate. While AI will be able to write social media messages, title suggestions, or even imitate writing styles, the best books, movies, and plays will be written by humans for the foreseeable future. Entertainment will be a hot area in the era of AI, because we will have more wealth overall, and more free time.


AI will become great tools to teachers and education, capable of knowing how to help personalize education curriculum based on each students’ competence, progress, aptitude, and temperament. However, education will be more about helping each student to find what he or she wants, helping hone each student’s ability to learn independently, and being the friend and mentor to help each student to learn to interact with others and gain trust. These are jobs that can only be done by teachers, and require a low student:teacher ratio (like 5:1 or fewer). So there will be many more such humanistic teacher positions created in the future. In fact, a parent may be the best such teacher — if future governments would be wise enough to compensate home schooling parent-teachers. If you are or want to be a teacher, learn more how to connect to your students, one student at a time or in small groups, and less about how to lecture to 50 students.

Criminal defense attorney

Top lawyers will have nothing to worry about their jobs — reasoning across domains, winning the trust of the clients, years working with many judges, and persuading the jury are the perfect combination of complexity, strategy, and human interaction that are so hard for AI. However, a lot of paralegal and preparatory work in document review, analysis, and recommendations can be done much better by AI. And many tasks performed by paralegal: legal discovery, creating contracts, and handling small claims, parking cases, will be increasingly handled by AI. Cost of law makes it worthwhile for AI companies to go after AI-paralegals and AI-junior lawyers, but not the top lawyers themselves.

Computer Scientists & Engineers

As the information age advances, McKinsey report shows that engineering jobs (computer scientists, engineers, IT administrators, IT workers, tech consulting). This high-wage category is expected to increase by 20 million to 50 million globally by 2030. But these jobs require staying up-to-date with technology, and moving into areas that are not automated by technologies.


Scientists are the ultimate profession of human creativity. AI can only optimize based on goals set by human creativity. While AI is not likely to replace scientists, AI would make great tools for scientists. For example, for drug discovery, AI can be used to hypothesize and test possible uses of known drugs for diseases, or filter possible new drugs for scientists to consider. AI will amplify the human scientists.


Good managers have human interaction skills including motivation, negotiation, persuasion. Good managers will effectively connect on behalf of the companies to employees, and vice versa. More importantly, the best managers are leaders, who establish a strong culture and values, and through their action and words, cause the employees to follow with their heart. While AI can be used to manage performance, managers will continue to be humans. That said, if a manager is merely a bureaucrat sitting behind a desk and giving employees orders, he or she will be replaced by other humans.