The Best of Times, The Worst of Times: Automation, Artificial Intelligence - Jobs

Duke Corporate Education Faculty member, Vivek Wadhal cautions: “A ‘Mad Max’ future or an enlightened one.”

“In the future, no one will work.” “In the future, everyone will work.” It will be a “Mad Max” age cursed by the dominance of robots and Artificial Intelligence (AI) — or an an age blessed by the benefits of the most advanced technologies bringing unprecedented access to quality healthcare, more livable (smarter) communities, and unchaining humans from monotonous and unfulfilling labor for creative, new collaborations.

What is the truth? What does the future hold for humanity in a world in which AI is smarter and robotics more efficient than any human employee could ever hope to be (no, we won’t discuss the subject of cyborgs here)?

Ben Pring, Director of Cognizant’s Center for the Future of Work.

For some, the arrival of the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR), the phrase given the current age, an age characterized by the unprecedented convergence of disruptive technological advances, such as AI, robotics and the Internet of Things (IoT), means a future of chaos where mass unemployment will upend everything. For others, such as innovators at the technology services company, Cognizant’s “Center for the Future of Work” (Center), the 4IR will bring a bevy of new jobs sparked by the very technologies others fear will end meaningful employment. And, at Duke Corporate Education, academics are working with practitioners to challenge the suppositions we all may make.

“Wrenching transformations.” Even the Center’s optimistic predictions of new work are tempered by an inescapable, cautionary note: “Many types of jobs will disappear. Many workers will struggle to adjust to the disappearance of the work they understand and find it hard to thrive with work they don’t understand. Wrenching transformations — which is what the future of work holds for us all — are never easy.”

Could the math really be so simple?

Duke Corporate Education and Cognizant just co-hosted an event on the future of work at the chic Dylan Street Hotel in New York City, showcasing the Center’s report, 21 Jobs of the Future, an optimistic look at job creation that goes against the tide of doomsday soothsayers predicting the demise work.

Plenty of work to be done “humanizing” the digital and automated.

The single consensus from the “21 Jobs of the Future” forum was that we must all rethink our notions of “the future of work”.

For the “21 Jobs of the Future”, the focus is on “the human touch.”

Three themes: 1. Coaching, 2. Caring, and 3. Connecting.

The “21 Jobs of the Future” share three common themes”:

  1. Coaching: Helping people get better at things (e.g., managing personal finances , home improvement projects, fitness).
  2. Caring: Improving people’s health, mental state, daily quality of life.
  3. Connecting: Man and machine, traditional and shadow IT, the physical and the virtual, commerce with ethics.

Some of the “jobs of the future” suggested by the Center may leaving you scratching your head or rolling your eyes. Most will make you think.

Either way, the list moves the debate on the future of work forward. You may quarrel with some of the jobs proposed or duties described, but then it is up to you to provide a better position and job description. And there are plenty to be had — which is the overarching point of the report.

Mobile healthcare will provide quality healthcare to millions who never had it before, creating many new jobs.

To the Center’s credit, it has created a list of jobs that go beyond jobs that are “already well understood and well developed”, such as a cyber-security developer, instead, opting to offer jobs that deemed “likely to emerge over the next ten years.”

So what are the “21 Jobs of the Future” identified by the Center?

Interestingly, the report states that they are presented “in the order in which we expect them to appear”, each with a job description outlining minimum skills, as if they were job openings — which, presumably, they all will be, in short order, and sizeable quantities. Following is my sketch of the descriptions and skill requirements:

  1. Data Detective: you don’t need to be a data scientist, but you must be comfortable in providing meaning from the vast amount of data generated by so many new sensors in the Internet of Things. (Startups should have a field day considering how this data could be used!)
  2. IT Facilitator: sorry, for this one you’ll need a Masters in IT and adeptness at facilitating automation and collaboration across an enterprise.
  3. Ethical Sourcing Officer: executing and auditing the ethical mandates of enterprises — sounds like this one is ideal for online certifications.
  4. Artificial Intelligence Business Development Manager: another high skill-level post, this one calls for an MBA or equivalent business experience and experience with AI software (guessing necessity, driven by a limited pool of qualified candidates, will allow some improvisation in credentials and collaboration).
  5. Master of Edge Computing: a Ph.D. in computer science with significant IoT working experience — a job not many displaced workers are going to find hope in filling.
  6. Walker/Talker: if you get passed the police-approved background check, you’ll have a career in helping consumers for a myriad of continuity of service assistance opportunities, whether it’s providing comfort to a home-alone senior or guidance on mobile app use, customer service will become much more proactive and personal than it is today.
  7. Fitness Commitment Counselor: the Center’s director offered a personal anecdote regarding this new role, sharing how it helped him on his own wellness journey. In short, while a wearable fitness device might encourage us to walk more, a real person monitoring and coaching inspires a much deeper level of commitment to users. Though the Center’s “job ad” calls for five-years’ experience, online certifications could no doubt open up many more employment opportunities.
  8. AI-Assisted Healthcare Technician: a nursing degree would be ideal; a certification might also work depending on the breadth of tasks assigned.
  9. Cyber City Analyst: as community services become more and more automated, workers who can diagnose and fix various automated functions will be in high demand — the minimum skills could vary according to the tasks assigned.
  10. Genomic Portfolio Director: hmmm. Not quite sure what to think of this post. It would go to someone who can understand the new drugs that are coming our way, calling for an undergraduate degree in genomics and recommending an MBA in business or biology — not a job many displaced workers will find themselves suited to fill.
  11. Man-Machine Teaming Manager: this person gets to figure out how to weave man and machine collaboration. Another post calling for a master’s degree, but one that is also likely to be filled with something “less” — or different. (Calling for a master’s degree seems to go against the trend of online learning and evolving, focused skill set certifications.)
  12. Financial Wellness Coach: you have your wearable for fitness, why not one for financial well being? With the explosion of online banking online financial coaching seems like a natural. Get ready to get your training to help others succeed with the finances — wherever they are.
  13. Digital Tailor: what happens when we all do most of our clothing shopping online? At the moment, 40% of online-purchased clothing gets returned because their ill-fitting. What if you could have someone come to your home or office and measure you precisely? A“digital tailor.” (Update: Looks like this “new” job may already be as “ dead as a Dodo” bird thanks to a new use for 3D-printing technologies.)
  14. Chief Trust Officer: the person who gets to explain, encourage and enforce trust related to an enterprise’s use of cryptocurrencies. Should cryptocurrencies become prevalent in business usage, having someone who understands and can explain how they work will become essential.
  15. Quatum Machine Learning Analyst: okay, so this new job is another one that is not going to offer much encouragement to many lower — and higher — skill set displaced workers, as it will only provide opportunities to those with highly-particularized post-graduate degrees and experience.
  16. Virtual Store Sherpa: fancy name for someone who will bridge the gap in ecommerce and home-improvement project completion — someone skilled in home-improvement projects and helping others understand how to get the tools and supplies to get the job done.
  17. Personal Data Broker: in a world in which everything we wear, touch or drive generates personal data, a new administrator/trader will be needed to optimize and protect the value of personal data — a quick learner with an analytical mind will be needed for this job.
  18. Personal Memory Curator: this position will only make sense to fans of the Netflix series, “Black Mirror,” episode “San Junipero”. Imagine being able to live in a virtual reality world from the favorite period in your life. In the future you’ll get to go there and you’ll need a talented team to craft the right touches for you. An ability to work with a team and listen well will get you far in this post.
  19. Augmented Reality Journey Builder: part “bricklayer”, part “playwright”, you will help create and gamify the visual overlays and journeys that will entertain us on our way to work or guide us in our shopping as augmented reality becomes our primary reality. Design and development skills needed.
  20. Highway Controller: look to the skies and to the roads as many will be needed to orchestrate the music of “automated” vehicles moving at dizzying speeds, safely delivering people and packages to their their destinations. Bring a high tolerance to stress and a readiness to be trained.
  21. Genetic Diversity Officer: Yes, you’ll need an advanced degree in Biology or Genomics. Since this post is listed last, it can be expected to come last in the ten-year window. It is a job that helps provide fairness and inclusion in a world and workplace where some people have been genetically enhanced and others have not. Really.
A life-enriching virtual world in “Black Mirror”.

One can debate the projections enshrined in the “21 Jobs of the Future” report. One can also question how likely it is that the jobs imagined in the report are to be found in our near or distant future. One cannot, however, challenge the report’s core premise: human creativity must and can breathe life into the future of work so that automation and AI are driven by humanity — and not the other way around. The technologies of the future beg for a creative spark. That spark is where new jobs will spring to life.

Have a job for the future that the report hasn’t considered? I’d love to hear about it! Please share your thoughts in the comments. (I may write about it if you do!)

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