Harvard Business Review: Technology Will Replace Many Doctors, Lawyers, and Other Professionals

Faced with the claim that AI and robots are poised to replace most of today’s workforce, most mainstream professionals — doctors, lawyers, accountants, and so on — believe they will emerge largely unscathed. During our consulting work and at conferences, we regularly hear practitioners concede that routine work can be taken on by machines, but they maintain that human experts will always be needed for the tricky stuff that calls for judgment, creativity, and empathy.

Our research and analysis challenges the idea that these professionals will be spared. We expect that within decades the traditional professions will be dismantled, leaving most, but not all, professionals to be replaced by less-expert people, new types of experts, and high-performing systems.

We conducted around 100 interviews, not with mainstream professionals but with leaders and new providers in eight professional fields: health, law, education, audit, tax, consulting, journalism, architecture, and divinity. Our focus was on what has actually been achieved at the cutting edge. We also immersed ourselves in over 800 related sources — published books, internal reports, and online systems. We found plenty of evidence that radical change in professional work is already under way.

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