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30 March 2023

Will AI replace Plumbers?

As the world deals with an explosion of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and automation, there's no denying that many jobs will be impacted and lost. But for plumbers, their job is entirely safe from the clutches of AI, for many years to come.

Let's dive into the reasons why...

AI doesn't have hands

Like many tradespeople and those who work with their hands and in our homes, the job of a plumber is extremely safe from displacement by AI.

AI in the short term is most going to affect knowledge workers and white collar jobs. Blue collar jobs for the most part are safe.

The simple and obvious reason is that AI doesn't have hands - it sits within a computer, on a phone, in a cloud server, cut off physically from the outside world.

This will change of course as humanoid and other robots powered by AI come to market, with humanoid robots likely to hit the mainstream around 2030-2035. As with most new technologies, the initial barrier to widespread adoption and availability will be cost. Humanoid robots will be extremely expensive for the first few years, and consequently it will businesses and the very rich who have them first.

In fact it will become a status symbol. The present generation might be showing off their new cars to neighbors. Our kids will be reeling off the list of new features in their household robot.

But even with advanced humanoid robots on the market, the work of a plumber is still very safe.

The Incredibly Complex World of Plumbing

Plumbers are called upon to fix a vast array of issues, ranging from minor leaks to major disasters. They also do complex installations and renovations. The job requires a unique blend of technical expertise, practical experience, and the ability to think on your feet. AI, while powerful in its own right, cannot deal with the nuances and complexities involved in different plumbing jobs.

Every home is different, access to a problem area is often challenging, and the detective work and physical effort needed to locate, repair or install new plumbing, is as diverse as it can be.

A plumber's experience is a valuable asset that AI simply cannot replicate. Human plumbers have years of hands-on experience, and they've seen it all. From wrestling with an ancient valve, to installing state-of-the-art fixtures, a plumber's ability to adapt and improvise is unmatched. AI, on the other hand, needs to be programmed and trained on specific situations, and it lacks the versatility to tackle unexpected challenges.

A Hands-On Job

One of the most important aspects of plumbing is the ability to use one's hands to manipulate tools and fittings. AI and robots in its current and foreseeable state, do not have the dexterity or tactile sensitivity to perform these tasks with the finesse and skill of a human plumber. While some robots have been designed with manual dexterity, they are far from achieving the flexibility that a human plumber possesses.

Tools and Techniques

The world of plumbing tools and techniques is constantly evolving, with new innovations and products introduced regularly. Keeping up with these advancements requires a plumber to continuously learn and adapt. AI might be able to learn new information quickly, but it still struggles to apply that knowledge in a practical and hands-on manner.

The Trust Factor

Plumbing often involves working in people's homes, where trust and rapport are crucial. Customers need to feel comfortable allowing a plumber into their personal space. A human plumber can read social cues, engage in small talk, and provide reassurance. AI, despite its impressive computational abilities, simply cannot replicate the warmth and understanding that a human brings to the task.

Personalized Problem-Solving

In the world of plumbing, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Each situation calls for a unique approach, and a human plumber has the ability to assess a problem, consider multiple factors, and devise a customized plan. AI, on the other hand, might be able to churn out solutions based on pre-programmed scenarios, but it lacks the intuition and creativity required to think outside the box.


The job of a plumber is extremely safe from the looming challenge to society of AI and robots. The sheer complexity and variety of plumbing tasks, the dexterity and hands-on skills required, the importance of human connection, the need to work in tight spaces and an endless variety of homes, means even highly advanced humanoid robots will struggle to replace human plumbers. And even if they could in say 30 years, the cost of such (highly advanced) robots will be astronomical.

So for all the plumbers out there, rest easy knowing that your profession is secure for many years to come. For the rest of us, we can be grateful that when our pipes start leaking, we'll still be able to count on the expertise of a trusty human plumber to save the day... assuming we can find one.

Conclusion: Extremely Safe | Time Period: Indefinitely

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