10 New Jobs for the Workers of the Future
You know what the hardest job in the world is right now? Being a parent. How on earth are you supposed to help your offspring prepare for a world that is changing so fast?
Traditional jobs, like working the counter at McDonalds, are likely to go to the machines. Old stand-bys like delivering papers by bicycle? We get our news online now, and social media is threatening even that. So while we’re at it, we can scratch out being an entry-level reporter, too.
What will my kids be doing as they enter the workforce? Here are a few ways they might be able to earn their keep as they grow and mature in their careers:
The number of entry-level jobs that machines can’t do is diminishing fast. But for all the jobs we lose, we are also getting new ones:
We won’t have robots that are as adept as humans at navigating the physical world for a while. Yet we still put them out there, into a world that doesn’t respect their limitations. Every now and then, they work themselves into a corner, fall over, or trip into a pool. Someone’s got to go right them again.
At least until cars drive themselves to our houses to deliver groceries loaded into them at giant robotic warehouses, there will a need for task-based labor (TaskRabbit, Uber, Instacart, etc). It’s not much of a path to anything else, but it will keep our kids on the streets for the summers, instead of crashed out on the couch locked into VR.
Virtual reality is dangerous. If you’re completely immersed in a virtual world, you can’t see how your actions might affect you over here in reality. Get distracted by the app you’re in, and you could walk into a chair, trip over a cable, or worse. We need chaperones to mind our physical bodies while our minds are elsewhere. As VR entertainment becomes more mainstream, this will be a solid minimum-wage, entry-level job at VR arcades, trade shows, and the like. (Home VR users will have to rely on strategically-placed soft furniture; pedestrians might be fined for walking while immersed.)
We are going to have to adapt to the machine world, but the machines have to adapt to us, too. To help the world change, there will be jobs requiring sensitivity, training, and common sense, if not a deep wealth of technical expertise. For example:
Chatbot Gag Writer and AI Voice Coach
We’ve had a lot of practice anthropomorphizing our machines: How many of us name our cars, or yell at telephone voicebots? In the near future, companies will start to give their machines personalities on purpose. And somebody’s going to have to write those dialog choices. This is not a high-end job, but it will be a good way for workers to get familiar with working alongside AI, which is going to become a survival skill.
Furthermore, each machine is going to need its own unique, identifiable voice. We can’t use the same person’s phonemes for everything. Training the bots to sound good might be how voice actors get paid to talk themselves out of their own jobs.
Virtual Interior Designer
As more of us work from homes, we are going to need to fine-tune our at-home workspaces. Not just our desks and chairs, but our new augmented remote workspaces. So people will want AR interior designers to pick the virtual colors, artwork and animations/holograms that will exist in their workspaces. And then, likely, the rest of their homes. Some of these people will move on to become full VR designers, creating team workspaces that exist only online. There will also be a new path for visual artists, who will create fully virtual works. We’ve seen it already in game design; it’s coming for our workspaces, too.
Remote Physical Trainer
Want to have a physical therapist or workout coach come visit you at home every day? It might be unaffordable for most people right now, but with video and augmented realty helping out, one trainer can serve many people, together or rapidly in sequence, without having to travel (see Peloton). Beyond that, trainers and coaches will be able to employ AI-powered avatars to show up most of the time just to give clients direction and keep them on track; they’ll only have to check in from time to time to adjust routines.
Making at-home check-ins more efficient is going to be very positive for our aging population, and there will be job opportunities for the people that do it.
VR Addiction Specialist
Meanwhile, we’re going to need people who can help humans adapt to this new, connected, artificially-intelligent, incredibly compelling world. Somebody’s going to have to talk people down after their VR highs, and help them stick to moderation programs so they don’t neglect their bodies (and other people) altogether.
Here’s where we get to the really interesting — and lucrative — jobs of the future. These are jobs that will require deep technical, personal, and team skills, plus the kind of judgment that only comes from years of experience.
AI Forensic Psychologist
Artificial intelligence and machine learning will put incredible capability and sensitivity into our machines — but the more complex the algorithms that the machines cook up, the more impenetrable they’ll be, even to the engineers who built their learning systems. Understanding the decisions machines make after the fact will be a job that requires a new blend of psychological and technological skills. It will also require intense focus and years of experience to do it well.
The expertise will be vitally important when AIs screw up in making life-or-death decisions or when moving big sums of money around. Then, the lawyers (human and AI) will get involved, and they’ll need to put the AI on the witness stand, as it were. AI behavior analysts will be the ones to interpret their decisions while lawyers try to assign culpability.
Neural Lace Technician / Coach
Full brain/machine interfaces will get here eventually, and not everyone who augments themselves with technology is going to have the same experience. Many of us are going to need coaches to learn how to incorporate the flood of information into our minds. In some cases the integrations won’t go perfectly. Debugging and tuning the neural connection is likely to be a delicate, possibly very analog challenge, requiring a deep understanding of human psychology, neurology, and implant technology. (If surgery is required to install the hardware in our skulls, it will likely be done by robots.)
Autonomous, self-teaching machine intelligences need to be bound by laws and morals to exist in our society. Isaac Asimov’s “Three Laws of Robotics” are too simplistic. We’re going to need lawmakers who can keep up with advances in technology to support the creation of ethical and responsible machines — and who can keep in check those who might try to leverage technology beyond the bounds of fairness or common sense.
It Will All Work Out
I’m not worried that my children won’t be able to find fulfilling work in the future. For every invention we create, there are jobs that go along with them. And there’s the opportunity to make even newer inventions, and even newer jobs.