Careers of the Future?

We’ve long been fascinated with predicting jobs of the future. Leonardo DaVinci predicted airplane (“ornithopter”) pilots. Jules Verne predicted submarine pilots, astronauts, and the ubiquity of career women.

Of course, many predictions have been wrong. No less than Isaac Asimov predicted that people would live in underwater cities. But just as some people buy a speculative stock in hopes the greater risk will yield far greater return, here are some deep-under-the-radar careers. Who knows? Maybe some offer opportunity to get in below the ground floor.

The 11 careers are placed in one of the six categories widely used by career counselors, the John Holland typology.

For hands-on types

Autonomous vehicle technician. For example, this week at a U.S. governors conference, Tesla head Elon Musk said that autonomous vehicles will need multi-layered security software: The software allowing a person to open a locked car will need to be different from that to start the engine, which will be different from the software that protects an entire fleet from hacking. Imagine if a terrorist hacked a fleet of autonomous moving cars, trucks, buses, or trains. Of course, such problems will require software engineers but deeper under the ground floor will be a new career: technician who maintains and repairs autonomous vehicles.

For investigative types

Bioterrorism prevention specialist. Because of recent hackings, much attention is paid to cyberterrorism, but bioterrorism has greater potential for killing people. Every second after a bio-attack can cost lives. For example, once the highly communicable smallpox bacilli are in the air, they’re as hard to control as — per the play Doubt — feathers from a pillow dumped from atop a skyscraper. So there should be ample jobs for scientists developing, managers manufacturing, and salespeople selling bioweapon-detection sensors.

Computer-decision umpire. These people would resolve disputes about the ever-growing number of computer-made decisions, for example: housing appraisals, value of an insurance claim, recommended medication, and down the road, even decisions about who gets hired or admitted to college.

For artistic types

Psychodesigner. Three factors are conspiring that could make this a significant career:

  • Technology’s ability to create highly customized items at low cost.
  • The temptation to manufacture look-alikes: Technology makes it easy to stamp out millions of identical objects.
  • The stresses of an ever ratcheted-up society. Life is Darwinian and technology’s advances decrease the amount of low-stress routine work. That means that most people will, ever more often, have to be on their A game. That’s all a formula for high stress.

For time immemorial, we have found peace in aesthetic, individual beauty: whether an ancient temple, public garden, or inspiring skyline. The aforementioned factors may abet the career of psychodesigner. They would work with architects, product manufacturers, and city planners to create environments that are, as desired, enlivening or peaceful, nostalgic or forward-inspiring, but not sterile.

For social types

Isolation reducer. With ever more of our work done at home and our personal needs met by next-generations of smartphones, people will likely be lonelier. So there may be a growing market for paid personal companions, platonic and not.

Cyber-spouse customizer. The Gatebox company is selling a virtual live-in girlfriend, an Alexa with personality. It’s a 3D-holographic anime spouse marketed especially to hard-working men who don’t make time to find and sustain a human relationship. GateBox is still crude but in coming decades, it’s easy to imagine quite appealing cyberspouses. The complexities of interpersonal interaction suggest that, just as we may hire someone to customize our home theatre system, people may hire cyberspouse customizers. Based on a detailed questionnaire the owner would complete, the customizer would program the cyberspouse to become the perfect virtual partner.

Tech tutor. As ever more of our lives become computer-centric, many people will need to keep learning how to use current technology. Today, tech tutors exist but only on a small scale. As tech continues to advance, that blip on the career screen could become quite visible.

Atheistic spiritual leader. A National Geographic study found that the fastest growing religion is no-religion. Yet despite millennia of increased scientific understanding, most people continue to want to be in a congregation with a leader to help them rise about the quotidian and to find guidelines and inspiration for an ethical life — Enter the atheist spiritual leader.

Pharmacopsychologist. A schism exists between clinical psychologists and psychiatrists: Psychologists rely mainly on talk therapy while psychiatrists rely heavily on drug therapy. As we learn more about the biological basis of many mental illnesses, there will be increased need for mental health practitioners skilled in both pharmacological and verbal therapies.

For entrepreneurial types

Software trader. Software will be the heart of ever more of what we do. So there may be brokers and appraisers of customized software for, for example, 3-D printing houses, cooking in restaurants, donor-maximizing for nonprofits, and, of course, home-cleaning for domestic robots.

For conventional types (That’s Holland’s term. I prefer “upholders of societal institutions.”)

Cyber police officer. Machine learning is making computers ever smarter, ever more autonomous. Some eminents, for example, Elon Musk, Bill Gates, and Stephen Hawking, worry that computers could gain so much power and autonomy that they pose a threat to humans. So there may be a need for law enforcement professionals who focus on keeping the computers in line.

The takeaway

Most people are grateful for a good job in an extant career but some people like to live on the cutting edge. May none of these careers turn out to be a bleeding edge.

Dr. Nemko’s nine books are available. You can reach career and personal coach Marty Nemko at