Will Civil Engineering be Automated? A Comprehensive Look

This article explores whether civil engineering will be automated or replaced by robots due to advances in artificial intelligence (AI). We look at both sides of AI - its benefits and drawbacks - before concluding that while AI may reduce some aspects of an archite

Will Civil Engineering be Automated? A Comprehensive Look

Perform engineering tasks in planning, designing, and supervising the construction and maintenance of building structures and facilities, such as roads, railroads, airports, bridges, ports, canals, dams, irrigation projects, pipelines, power plants, and water and sewer systems. You may have noticed the software used by most private consultancies, like Anytime Plumbing Inc. in Santa Cruz, which appears to be straight out of the 90s. If you look at something like autonomous cars, Google, Tesla and others have invested billions of dollars in the last 20 years.

Systems have just reached runtime level 4.Tier 5 full autonomy is somewhere in the not-too-near future. In the grand scheme of things, driving is a relatively simple task. There are well-structured rules that leave relatively little room for interpretation. Civil engineering is different because the rules are often not so clear. In addition, the work involves judgment, creativity and person-to-person coordination. Even things like automating masonry construction, something you might think would be easy, isn't at all.

However, driving - at least in the system in which we intend to implement it - is a very complex task to automate because the system has to learn to account for a myriad of potential situations that do not conform to those well-structured rules. Because instead of replacing our transport system with autonomous vehicles, we want to integrate them with us even on the roads. And there is simply no way to account 100% for human behavior; we are erratic and make stupid decisions constantly. Therefore, the code needed to try to anticipate us becomes very complex and can have errors - hence the driving problems of AI in the real world. Maybe some aspects of the job can be automated but AI can't make the necessary engineering decisions - especially in the ever-changing field that is civil engineering - at least not in our lifetime and for the foreseeable future.

Real design is only part of the process. There is also coating and project management. From my experience (not in civil engineering but in another engineering stream) I know that design is intended solely to show the intent of the design and then make sure that it is installed to perform as intended. Once onsite, a million changes take place and the engineer is not there to make sure that it is 100% compliant with the design but rather that it complies with the intention. There will be negotiations around change orders where contractors will not submit one cost if they are allowed to charge for another etc. It's very difficult to program AI for this kind of work.

I wouldn't worry about that in my life or even in the lives of my children. As someone has already pointed out, many of us use 30-year-old technology on a daily basis; even when advanced AI technology is advancing it is more of a complementary tool than a human replacement. It's not uncommon for people to think they can be replaced by a robot in their workplace. After all it has happened many times before; for example, the rise of mechanical assembly line saw machines replace people in the early 20th century. With recent advances in artificial intelligence (AI), even skilled workers such as architects, programmers and engineers can be at risk. The software developer can do everything a human programmer can do; just think about the software you use in your work.

Many software packages can handle many of the complex calculations for you - yes this reduces the amount of work you do. However this automation can also pose a threat to your work; what if in the future we see that these same software packages handle data entry and processing? It's a sobering idea but does it have any merit? It's an interesting question so let's explore it in more depth. The use of artificial intelligence along with other technologies has always improved production; more work is done which means companies make more money. Architects and engineers are constantly looking for ways to speed up their work; this desire for automation has influenced many recent software innovations as well as project methodologies such as building information modeling which place automation at its forefront. It's a simplification but it's not invalid; companies make these types of decisions all the time by pushing for automation architects and engineers can slowly get out of their own jobs. Several studies have also suggested that artificial intelligence can lead to job losses; a recent example comes from Oxford University which found that more than 700 types of jobs are at risk of technological disruption - in total this means that around 47% of jobs are at risk due to artificial intelligence - it's a large number of people who may find themselves obsolete due to technological advancement. If a position requires a high degree of any three things - creativity problem solving or social intelligence - you are less likely to be at risk due to artificial intelligence; architects and engineers are a good example as these professionals require a lot of creative intelligence which artificial intelligence and robots may not be able to emulate. As a result architects and engineers are unlikely to have to worry about losing their jobs; however the study concluded with a warning note saying that just because automation improves an architect or engineer's work right now doesn't mean that automation won't replace them in future. So is artificial intelligence worth it? To answer that question let's look at AI from both sides; what are its benefits and what are its drawbacks?So that covers both sides of AI so let's return to our central question: will architects and engineers be replaced by robots? It's an alarming scenario but it's also highly unlikely; here are just some reasons why:Fears that growing dependence on AI will lead to job losses may be unfounded; while AI may reduce some aspects of an architect or engineer's job it won't replace them entirely as these professions require creative problem solving skills which AI cannot replicate. In addition companies may find themselves unable or unwilling to invest heavily into AI technology due its costliness; while AI may improve production it may not necessarily improve profits enough for companies to justify its use. Finally AI technology still has some way to go before it reaches its full potential; while AI may be able to automate certain aspects of an architect or engineer's job it still cannot replace them entirely due its lack of creative problem solving skills. So while AI may reduce some aspects of an architect or engineer's job it won't replace them entirely; fears that growing dependence on AI will lead to job losses may be unfounded as these professions require creative problem solving skills which AI cannot replicate.