Concern about a “jobless future” has never been greater. Seemingly every day, an academic, researcher or technology leader suggests that in a world of automation and artificial intelligence (AI), workers will increasingly be a surplus to what businesses need. For many people, the future of work looks like a bleak place, full of temporary jobs, minimum wage labor and a ruling technocracy safely hidden away in their gated communities.
It’s a viable question: How will we make a living when machines are cheaper, faster and smarter than we are — machines that don’t take breaks or vacations, don’t get sick and don’t care about chatting with their colleagues about last night’s game?
But our vision of the future of work is an optimistic one. We believe work will change but won’t go away. While many types of jobs will disappear, and many workers will struggle to adjust, a world without work is a fantasy that is no closer to reality in 2017 than it was 501 years ago upon the publication of Thomas More’s Utopia.
There Will Be Jobs
Our view of the future of work is based on the following principles:
Work has always changed. Few if any people make a living nowadays as telegraphists, switchboard operators, lamplighters, town criers, travel agents, elevator operators or secretaries. Yet these were all jobs that employed thousands of people in the past.
Lots of current work is awful. Millions of people around the world do work they hate — work that is dull, dirty or dangerous. We shouldn’t have a “pre-nostalgia” for the mortgage processor in the way that some people are nostalgic about miners and steelworkers (people who typically weren’t miners or steelworkers, it goes without saying).
Machines need man. Machines can do more, but there is always more to do. Can a machine (in its software or hardware form) create itself, market itself, sell itself? Deliver itself? Feed itself? Clean itself? Machines are tools, and tools need to be used. By people. To imagine otherwise is to fall into the realm of science-fiction extrapolation.
Don’t underestimate human imagination or ingenuity. Our greatest quality is our curiosity. We want to know what’s around the riverbend. In an age of intelligent machines, man will continue to want to explore – and make — what’s next. Doing so will be the source of new work ad infinitum.
Technology will upgrade all aspects of society. Many aspects of modern societies are still far from perfect. Is our healthcare system as good as it’s ever going to be? The way we bank? How we educate our kids? Of course not. Technology is set to become central to how we do everything and, in the process, make the services and experiences we want much, much better.
Technology solves — and creates — problems. The guilty little secret of the technology world is that every solution begets a problem. Fix A, and then B goes on the fritz. Develop C — which is a great new thing — and then realize you’ve also created D — which is a terrible new thing that needs fixing. Intelligent machines will address many problems in society (see above), but in doing so, they will also create lots of new problems that people will need to work on addressing. Work that they will monetize. The work ahead goes on forever. Wash, rinse, repeat.
A Look into the Near Future of Employment
We propose 21 new jobs that will emerge over the next 10 years and will become cornerstones of the future of work. From data detectives, to cyber city analysts, to augmented reality journey builders, these jobs are not science fiction – they’re jobs your HR department will have to fill before very long.
We’ve positioned these 21 jobs over a 10-year timeline and according to their “tech-centricity.”
Some are highly technical, while others won’t require much tech knowledge at all.
The Three C’s
While these 21 jobs cover many disciplines, markets and technologies, they also share three common themes:
Helping people get better at things (e.g., managing their finances, managing their weight).
Improving people’s health and wellness.
Man and machine, traditional and shadow IT, the physical and the virtual, commerce with ethics.
These 3C’s speak to a universal truth — that no matter how technological our age becomes, ultimately we, as humans, want the human touch. We want technology to help us, as a tool, but we don’t want technology for technology’s sake. The jobs in our report reflect this fact and point not to a cyber dystopia — a grim, dark singularity — but to a recognizable world in which technology has improved things for humans, not robbed us of what we value most: our very humanity.
These 21 jobs are some — although, of course, not all — of the 21 million new jobs that we are confident will be created over the next 10 to 15 years. Many of the jobs of the future are the jobs of today — teachers, doctors and policemen aren’t going anywhere soon — but many of them will transform into the often weird, unsettling, unique occupations we outline here. Jobs that will seem odd to our parents and, in time, may seem ridiculous to our kids. In the way that work has always changed but has also always been with us. And always will.