Can engineering be automated?

With the constant evolution of technology, jobs are increasingly automated in many industries. We analyze how engineering works can be affected. Engineering jobs benefit from automation at all stages of a project's lifecycle. The fourth industrial revolution is coming.

Perform engineering tasks in planning and designing tools, motors, machines, and other mechanically operating equipment. Oversee the installation, operation, maintenance and repair of equipment, such as centralized heating, gas, water, and steam systems. With these and other recent advances in AI, many engineers fear that their jobs will be taken over by automated systems. Nearly half of jobs in the United States are at risk of being automated in the next decade or two, says Oxford University study.

Replacing engineers with AI is a foreign concept for me. The idea of thinking about a design of anything, and AI designing everything, developing the production methods and then designing the tools without a team of engineers looking at everything, doesn't seem to be on the near horizon. Sure, the software will continue to automate routine tasks, but overall the essence of engineering remains the same. If you're conceptualizing engineering as tasks, yes, they're going to continue to automate.

Ultimately, engineering is creatively applying science to problem solving. Not only that, but paradoxically, automation will also increase the demand for engineers' skills. The main argument for the safety of engineers in the face of automation lies in the skills that engineers take years to develop. In engineering, architecture and design, a new type of AI-based software emerged, capable of creating a multitude of solutions to a problem in a short period of time based on predefined criteria.

Many say that those with a good background in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) will continue to be in high demand. Roles such as mechanical engineer are considered to be some of the least likely to be assumed by machines in the foreseeable future. While routine work and simple tasks can eventually be replaced by machines, there is enormous potential for the engineering profession across disciplines. While AI is increasingly being used in the computer field, it is often done to increase the skills of professionals, such as software engineers and machine learning, rather than directly replacing them.

Even the engineers working on these algorithms don't quite know how their machine learning models make their decisions. AI (and automation) already greatly complement engineering work and will continue to do so; things like CAD software, for example, allow engineers to achieve much more than they have ever achieved by drawing by hand. Common stigmas place white-collar workers, such as engineers and computer programmers, out of the potential to be overcome by robotic workers. Must proactively prepare for the AI-driven future and make data-centric science training a cornerstone of engineering education.

Here's the good news, based on current AI progress, you probably won't see white-collar engineering work being automated until the end or after your career. Although the field is changing and engineer workflows will be further automated in the future, the situation will be one where engineers and AI tools coexist in a symbiotic relationship where the engineer is the net beneficiary. From an engineering perspective, its highly skilled nature makes the discipline more resilient when replaced by machines. Mark Girolami, professor of civil engineering at the University of Cambridge and the Royal Academy of Engineering research chair in data-centric engineering, shares the emotion.


Latonya Onorati
Latonya Onorati

Extreme pop culture expert. Twitter evangelist. Professional sushi junkie. Infuriatingly humble food scholar. Freelance bacon buff.