Reprint from Futurist Magazine: Inventing Tomorrow’s Jobs

Productivity-enhancing technologies may eliminate jobs, but innovation will create more.

By 2030, more than 2 billion jobs will disappear. This is not a doom and gloom prediction; it is a wakeup call for the world.

Will we run out of work for the world? Of course not. But the challenge is having paid jobs to coincide with the work that needs to be done, and developing the skills necessary for future work.

Our goal needs to be focused on the catalytic innovations that create entirely new industries, and these new industries will serve as the engines of future job creation unlike anything in all history.

Predicting future jobs is an exercise that involves looking at future industries and speculating on ways in which they will be different from the workforce today. Business management, engineering, accounting, marketing, and sales are all necessary skills for the future, but the work involved will also be different.

A few examples of job-inventing industries:

  • Personal Rapid Transit Systems: PRTs have the potential to become the largest infrastructure project the earth has ever seen, costing literally trillions of dollars and employing hundreds of millions of people. Jobs created will include station designers and architects, traffic-flow analyzers, command center operators, and construction teams.
  • Atmospheric Water Harvesting: An emerging solution to one of the earth’s most vexing problems, water harvesting will require site collection lease managers, system architects, and purification monitors.
  • The Sharing Economy: Not technically an industry, but a new way of living and working that is creating some amazing business models around the use of “other people’s stuff.” Jobs include sharability auditors—people who analyze homes and businesses for sharable assets—and corporate sharing managers.
  • The Quantified Self: Big data is building a measurable information sphere around each of us. We will become far more aware of our deficiencies and the pieces needed to shore up our shortfalls, creating opportunities for quantified self-assessment auditors, data contextualists, deficiency analyzers, skill quantifiers, and guardians of privacy.
  • Commercial Drone Industry: As the FAA develops a plan to incorporate drones into U.S. airspace by September 30, 2015, many in this new industry are chomping at the bit to get started. Jobs created will include drone standards specialists, drone docking designers and engineers, environmental minimizers—e.g., sound-diminution engineers and visual aesthetic reductionists—and backlash minimizers—those who deal with detractors.
  • 3-D Printing, named by Goldman Sachs as one of eight technologies destined to creatively destroy how we do business. Future jobs include material experts, design engineers, and organ agents for 3-D printed organs.
  • Internet of Things: Seventy-five billion devices will be connected to the Internet of Things by 2020, projects Morgan Stanley. That’s 9.4 devices for every one of the 8 billion people living just a few years from now. We’ll need lifestyle auditors, efficiency consultants, augmented reality architects, and avatar relationship managers.
  • Big Data: Social media, blogs, Web browsers, and companies’ security systems are all generating enormous quantities of data, and it all needs to be stored, managed, analyzed, and protected. Future jobs include data interface mavens, opportunity spotters, and waste data managers—those who streamline data storage, ridding our data centers of duplication and clutter.
  • Crypto Currencies and Alternative Financial Systems: In 2008, the entire world was beginning to panic as our global financial systems teetered ever so close to total meltdown. Out of a growing distrust of banks, Wall Street, and our entire monetary system, the age of crypto currencies was born. Look for job opportunities for crypto currency bankers, regulators, and lawyers, as well as anonymity advocates andtheft recovery specialists.
  • Driverless Everything: Over the next 10 years, we will see the first wave of autonomous vehicles hit the roads, with some of the first inroads made by vehicles that deliver packages, groceries, and fast-mail envelopes. Emerging career opportunities include delivery dispatchers; traffic monitoring system planners, designers, and operators; automated traffic architects and engineers; driverless “ride experience” designers; and emergency crews (for when things go wrong).
  • Bio-Factories: Based on using living systems, bio-factories represent a new process for creating substances that are either too tricky or too expensive to grow in nature or to make with petrochemicals. The rush to develop bio-factories as a means for production promises not only to revolutionize the chemical industry, but also to transform the economy. Future jobs include gene sequencers, treatment monitors, and bio-factory doctors, strategists, and developers.
  • Micro Colleges: Colleges today cost far too much, and they take far too long. For this reason, a new wave of full-immersion skill training centers, or Micro Colleges, has begun to emerge. Tomorrow’s job titles include school designers, career transitionists, and goal counselors.
  • Senior Living: With almost 10,000 Americans turning 65 every day, the number of seniors who need specialized housing will only increase the need for more options and better solutions. Emerging careers include lifestyle housing designers, life-stage attendants, memorial designers, and legacists—those who manage people’s legacy.
  • Future Agriculture: As with all industries, there are many micro-forces driving the changes in future agriculture. Three dominant trend lines—precision, relevance, and control—will be driving this industry. Opportunities include bio-meat factory engineers, urban agriculturalists, and plant educators—trainers who will work with intelligent plants, which will be capable of reengineering themselves to meet the demands of tomorrow’s marketplace.

Extreme Innovation Creates Innovative Jobs

Outside of the multiple categories listed above are a number of unusual jobs, many still decades away. Here are just a few to whet your appetite.

Extinction Revivalists—people who revive extinct animals.

Robotic Earthworm Drivers. The most valuable land on the planet will soon be the landfills, because that is where we have buried our most valuable natural resources. In the future, robotic earthworms will be used to silently mine the landfills and replace whatever is extracted with high-grade soil.

Avatar Designers. Next-generation avatars will become indistinguishable from humans on a two-dimensional screen. It is only a matter of time before they emerge from the computer and appear as visual beings, walking around among us.

Gravity Pullers—the first wave of people to unlock the code for influencing gravity.

Clone Ranchers. Raising “blank” humans will be similar in many respects to cattle ranching. But once a clone is selected, and the personality download is complete, the former clone will instantly be elevated to human status.

Body Part and Limb Makers. The Organ Agents listed above will quickly find themselves in a different line of work as soon as we figure out how to efficiently grow and mass produce our own organs from scratch.

Global System Architects. We are transitioning from national systems into global systems. Architects of these new global systems will play a crucial role in future global politics.

Memory Augmentation Therapists. Entertainment is all about the great memories it creates. Creating a better grade of memories can dramatically change who we are and pave the way for an entirely new class of humans.

Time Brokers, Time Bank Traders. Where do you go when you run out of time? Naturally, to the time-bank to take out a time-loan.

Space-Based Power System Designers. At some point, the burning of Earth’s natural resources for power will become a thing of the past. Space-based systems will capture and transmit power far more efficiently than anything currently in existence.

Brain Quants. Stock-market manipulators of the past meet the brain manipulators of the future to usurp control of marketing and messaging on Madison Avenue.

Nano-Weapons Specialists. Many of the weapons of the future will be too small to be seen by the human eye.

“Heavy Air” Engineers. Compressed air is useful in a wide variety of ways. However, we have yet to figure out how to compress streams of air as they pass through our existing atmosphere. Once we do, it will create untold opportunities for non-surface-based housing and transportation systems, weather control, and other kinds of experimentation.

Amnesia Surgeons—doctors who are skilled in removing bad memories or destructive behavior.

Geoengineers, Weather Control Specialists. We are moving past the age of meteorology and climatology to one where the true power brokers will wield the forces of nature.

These are just a few of the new opportunities that could emerge from innovation in technologies and industries. Automation is no longer the domain of the elite few, and the quicker we can make the transition to all industries, the quicker everyone can participate.

When we automate jobs out of existence, that doesn’t mean there is no work left to do. We are freeing up human capital, and this human capital can be put to work creating millions of new jobs in thousands of new industries. It will, however, require a whole new level of systems thinking to unleash these pent-up ambitions.

About the Author

Thomas Frey is executive director of the Da Vinci Institute and the Innovation editor of THE FUTURIST. This article is adapted from his post on the Futurist Blog (March 21, 2014). More about these and other future job titles and industries can be found at futuristspeaker.com.

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