This seven-day crowdsourced brainstorming exercise drew over 60 analysts from around the world to collaboratively explore the jobs of tomorrow in response to socioeconomic trends and technological advances. In the drill, analysts outlined brand-new jobs that can employ the next generation by identifying what sets the stage for these jobs, the demand for the job (and the ensuing regulatory environment affecting this emerging field), the job description, and finally the people who will hold these jobs (what skills they need and what their career path will look like).
The resulting 38 entries, bundled into four Master Narratives, capture the shifting job landscape by answering two primary questions:
- Will new jobs be focused on building on the past or defining the future?
- In doing so, will these new jobs be focused on providing services or products, either new or existing?
The following four Master Narratives summarize the new jobs that will deliver the same type of products and services more efficiently and effectively, as well as the new jobs that define the future by delivering new products and services demanded by consumers and government.
Master Narrative 1: Serving the Past
Many future jobs will address problems created by our old jobs and markets—either by cleaning up degradation created during the Industrial Revolution or by delivering existing services more effectively. For example, Digital Democracy Integrators will provide the means to exercise democracy more directly (rather than representatively) through online party voting and through constituent polling on important public issues prior to the representative casting a legislative vote. Integrators will also assure the validity of direct democracy votes and polls.
Fields in the environment, systems management, health and education will see new jobs emerge for already existing functions. For example, new jobs will address environmental degradation with emerging technologies:
- Water Restoration Engineers will pump new life (and oxygen) into dead zones created in oceans, lakes, and rivers.
- Carbon Capture and Storage Field Directors will extract carbon from the atmosphere, creating new carbon products to recoup costs.
- Specialists in Restoring and Reconstruction Ecosystems and Species will rehabilitate brownfield areas—small areas at first and later entire ecosystems—restoring flora and fauna that flourished during a pre-degraded period.
- Climate Change Response Architects will use available technology in metropolitan areas to (at least marginally) improve the worst effects of climate change by affecting temperature, precipitation, and storms.
New technology jobs will also take advantage of big data to manage and deliver existing services more efficiently and effectively. Strong Artificial Intelligence Engineers and Swarming System Analysts employ new analytic techniques across a broad array of management fields. These and other new analytic techniques will lead to new types of management jobs, such as the following.
- Energy Markets Predictive Performance Planners, with access to big data from providers and users, using fast, scalable artificial market simulation software, will use predictive technologies to improve energy planning and exercise real-time control over energy use by households, business and industrial sectors.
- Function Optimization Arbitrageurs will optimize the use of latent computer resources by “selling” unused portions of their networks and “buying” unused portions of other networks, thereby reducing the amount of spare computer network resources that need to be built and maintained. Select large firms such as Amazon lease unused resources; soon all, enterprise networks will need to participate to remain competitive.
The provision of health and education services will also benefit from new technologies and lead to new jobs.
- Cybertherapists will help patients heal from the pathologies developed from adjusting to rapidly changing technologies in a hyper connected online virtual world. These pathologies include various forms of internet addictions: sex, gambling, gaming, bullying, abuse, and stalking. Therapists will offer their services online using virtual reality-based clinical techniques.
- Elderly Well-Being Consultants will supplement traditional care provided by families to elderly relatives by guiding and advising families of older adults in managing the chronic needs of the aged. Increases in life expectancy and the expected creation of new health technologies to improve the health of the elderly will transform the gerontology field.
- Genetic Counselors will transform as the rapidly increasing understanding of genetics and the ability to affect the operations of genes provide counselors new tools to provide genetic counseling, laying the groundwork for an entirely new form of health intervention. Demand for these services will increase enormously.
- Personalized Learning Mentors will help students navigate traditional and online education options to assemble personalized education programs that leverage “live” learning, virtual learning, and the customized hiring of teachers.
Master Narrative 2: Producing the Past
New technologies will enable society to produce and build the familiar products in fundamentally different ways, creating new jobs, and “creatively” destroying existing jobs. These new jobs promise to provide higher quality food, shelter and power at lower cost. For example, the emergence of three-dimensional printing from limited to widespread, multi-industry use will create many jobs, especially for 3D Printers Technicians, who will service and operate the equipment. One large-scale application—the use of 3D technology to build houses—will revolutionize the home and office building industry, leading to many new jobs such as Journeyman House Printers.
One of our oldest industries, agriculture, will undergo a makeover, as Urban Farmers emerge concurrent with the urbanization of much of the world’s population. Vertical urban farms will significantly reduce transportation costs, minimizing spoilage, efficiently use space and water, and address the effects of climate change and population growth.
With the development of smart power technology and the emergence of the renewable industries, energy generation is likely to become more democratic, resulting in a new set of jobs. Local communities will produce, sell, and buy their own power to feed the smart grid via micro-power companies, creating jobs for Community Smart Grid Directors/Operators, buyers, repairmen, and sellers of electronic appliances.
Master Narrative 3: Serving the Future
In perhaps the most challenging part of the simulation, analysts were asked to define jobs that will provide new services in the next generation’s economy. Examples were developed in four domains: enhancing personal environment, defending against new threats, body modification from the inside out, and near-Earth space exploration and settlement.
New technologies will enable us to enhance our personal environment, changing the way we see, smell, and taste the world around us. New jobs will accommodate the demand for these services.
- Augmented Reality Producers will overlay a blanket of digital information over the real world, enhancing how people perceive and interact with their environment through sight, sound, smell, and even touch.
- Olfactory Integrators will incorporate smells into our commercial, private, and virtual lives, working not only in the entertainment industry but creating scent solutions for individuals and small business, including the food and health industries.
New jobs will arise to defend against new threats and existing threats for which old technology did not offer the ability to mount a defense.
- Asteroid Deflector Physicists will calculate and execute interventions using lasers, gravitational “tugboats” and other means to divert threatening asteroids into desirable orbits. Repositioning asteroids could also serve commercial mining purposes.
- Engineered-Pathogen Epidemiologists will detect and mitigate against man-made pathogens introduced malevolently or accidentally into the population, develop antidotes to eradicate or otherwise mitigate pathogens, and develop strategies to prevent engineered pathogens from entering the general population. Just as firms like MacAfee and Norton developed to protect our computer networks, firms will emerge to protect our bodies from malevolent individuals using evolving genetic technology to cause harm.
- BESOFs (Bio-Enhanced Special Operations Forces) will result from merging human and machine, putting boots and bots on the ground together to tame unstable regions in the world in a job that requires a lifetime commitment.
The merger of human and machine through the revolutions in genetics, robotics, and nanotechnology will spawn a new set of jobs addressing body modification from the inside out. Like an anesthesiologist, the Nanobotologist will work cross-functionally in the medical field, inserting small robotic devices to diagnose and treat illnesses, while Nanobot Engineers will design and manufacture complex nanotechnological robots to perform a multitude of tasks, extending human reach to space, the ocean depths, and inside live human cells—all in pursuit of health, defense, and a multitude of other realms. The Biomechanic will also work with nanobots at a cosmetic level, akin to tattoo artists and cosmetologists today.
While Buck Rogers’ intergalactic space travel is not likely to be a commercial venture for the next generation, near-Earth space travel and colonization (space stations and the moon) will emerge as a new industry, requiring Commercial Astronauts, Space Colonists, Space Navigators, Space Traffic Controllers, and Space Adaptation Trainers to teach people how to adapt to traveling and living outside of Earth’s atmosphere.
Master Narrative 4: Producing the Future
Not only will the consumers of the future demand new services, they will also demand new products to accompany those services, paving the way for new production industries. Producing these materials and products will require jobs from people possessing innovative talents. Entirely new industries will emerge from the advances in technology. For example, Synthetic Currency Traders will establish and manage the creation and trading of synthetic currencies, akin to Bitcoin. Demand for non-fiat currencies as an alternative to commodities as an inflation hedge is expected to grow, especially among those who believe that governments inherently debase their currencies, as well as among those who wish to skirt banking regulation.
Our analysts defined several new jobs producing the products and materials of the future in the transportation, mining and energy sectors. For example, transporting people and goods is set to undergo a major transformation, requiring a workforce that knows how to move from point A to B without the help of a driver or pilot in the vehicle.
- Autonomous Vehicle Mechanics and Dispatchers will be needed to maintain, repair, and dispatch autonomous commercial vehicles once autonomous vehicles become reliable enough to replace commercially driven vehicles on our highways. While physical vehicle driver positions will be lost (driver shortage is already a problem for over-the-road trucking), programmers, mechanics, and repairmen will be needed to service this new fleet of vehicles.
- Remote Neural Interface Pilots (Military and Civilian) will replace remote drone pilots as DARPA and other research scientists perfect systems to allow pilots to control vehicles via remote neural interface. Demand for neural pilots/drivers will exist in both the military and civilian sectors (for land, sea, air, and space), not just for vehicles but for other robots too.
- Electromagnetic Public Transport Engineers will develop and maintain one of the most promising new transportation technologies: superconductor magnetic-levitation, no-wheel vehicles that follow an electromagnetic grid embedded in the road. Engineers, technicians, and construction workers will build, operate, and maintain these environmentally friendly systems and sensor networks, primarily in urban areas.
New technologies will enable miners to seek raw materials in new locations: at the bottom of the oceans and on asteroids. Rare materials may become abundant and new materials may be discovered. Cheap and abundant energy produced by nuclear fusion is also set to emerge, as technological advances are backed by planned investments. Producing raw materials and energy from new sources will create many new jobs in their own right, and new downstream jobs as well.
- Asteroid Miners are already being recruited by companies with plans to mine asteroids. Although it is not yet cost-effective to return mined goods from space, the expected increase in near-Earth space travel and the accompanying improvement in commercial space travel technology bodes well for significant job growth in this sector.
- Subsea Miners, already mining near coastlines and pushing into the Arctic, are preparing to mine in ever-deeper waters in the world’s oceans, one of the largest unexplored and untapped resources on the planet.
- Fusion Energy Technicians will become increasingly in demand as the experimental International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor comes online and DEMO, the first commercial demonstration fusion power plant, paves the way for this long-awaited industry.
Several broad findings emerged from this analysis. Foremost, Wikistrat analysts do not expect the shift from a production to service economy to abate—if anything, the shift will accelerate. Only 11 of our scenarios focused on creating new products and finding new materials, and even these jobs contained a strong service component. With the advent of virtual products and manufacturing robots, the gaps between what were once considered service jobs (healthcare) and production jobs (mining) have narrowed to a point where, in some cases, the distinction is semantic. In the future, we will all be serving someone—or something.
But to what end? This analysis indicates that over the next 20 years, the newly employed will spend as much time improving the delivery of existing services as they will be inventing the services of the future. Some of this effort will be directed at mitigating the worst effects of the Industrial Age on the environment, while others will focus on employing new artificial intelligence and big data technologies to manage stubbornly inefficient enterprises.
New service industries will produce new jobs in two diverse realms: the personal environment and near space. Many new jobs will help us see, experience, and feel better, either by augmenting reality or changing us internally. The introduction of new technologies will also create new threats, thereby creating the demand for new jobs to defend against those threats. Others will work on exploring the next frontier, near-Earth space. What about the age of Buck Rogers? New jobs will be created in near-Earth orbit space travel and low-orbit space station/moon colonization, but interplanetary travel jobs will have to wait another generation, since the earliest planned mission to Mars is scheduled for the mid-2030s.
That the nature of work is changing is apparent from examining all of these scenarios. Craft skills (sewing, tinkering, building) will recede in importance as better software code and robots replace craft labor. Virtually all the new jobs explored in this simulation will require a good understanding of technology, excellent management and collaboration skills, and the ability to continuously learn new skills to adapt to a rapidly changing job market. To perform our jobs of the future, many of us will be relying on big data and artificial intelligence to help us make decisions, robots to conduct physical tasks, and implants or virtual reality to improve our performance and help us enjoy our work experiences.
Compiled by Jeffrey Itell, Senior Analyst at Wikistrat.
This article was originally published in the Diplomatic Courier’s July/August 2013 print edition.