Futurist Thomas Frey: Last week I was speaking at an event in Istanbul. As usual, once I landed at the airport, I made my way to the customs area where I was greeted by no fewer than 1,000 people in line ahead of me.
Long lines in airport customs is not unusual. But as I waded through this 45-minute process I couldn’t help but do some mental calculations surrounding the massive waste of human capital throughout this whole process. Since there were two separate customs areas at the Istanbul airport, my rough calculations came out to well over 10 million man-hours a year wasted at this one single airport.
It’s not unusual for governments to waste people’s time over what they like to phrase as “the greater good.” However, this entire security process will eventually be automated down to a fraction of the time it takes today, eliminating the need for over 90% of all customs agents.
The same goes for TSA-like security agents on the front end of airports. Within the next decade, 90% of those jobs will be gone as well. All of them, automated out of existence.
A recent article in The Economist quotes Bill Gates as saying at least a dozen job types will be taken over by robots and automation in the next two decades, and these jobs cover both high-paying and low-skilled workers. Some of the positions he mentioned were commercial pilots, legal work, technical writing, telemarketers, accountants, retail workers, and real estate sales agents.
Indeed, as I’ve predicted before, by 2030 over 2 billion jobs will disappear. Again, this is not a doom and gloom prediction, rather a wakeup call for the world.
Will we run out of work for the world? Of course not. Nothing is more preposterous than to somehow proclaim the human race no longer has any work left to do. But having paid jobs to coincide with the work that needs to be done, and developing the skills necessary for future work is another matter.
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.
I have written in the past about future industries. This time I’d like to focus on many of the future jobs within these industries that currently don’t exist.
Facing the Transition Ahead
Many people are scared of the future. With every science fiction movie that portrays technology as evil, and let’s be honest, that’s the theme of almost every science fiction movie that’s ever existed, it’s easy to develop some paranoia about the dangers ahead.
However, much of today’s technology is giving us super-human attributes. The same technology that gets blamed for eliminating our jobs, is also giving us capabilities beyond our wildest dreams. We have instant access to friends and family, instant access to answers for almost any question we ask, and instant entertainment if ever we get bored.
We can now think-faster, know-faster, and do-faster than ever before. We no longer end up being the “last to know.”
At the same time, every new technology also requires new skill sets for those working in those environments. Here are just a few of the skills that will be highly prized in the future.
14 Hot New Skills
1. Transitionists – Those who can help make a transition.
2. Expansionists – A talent for adapting along with a growing environment.
3. Maximizers – An ability to maximize processes, situations, and opportunities.
4. Optimizers – The skill and persistence to tweak variables until it produces better results.
5. Inflectionists – Finding critical inflection points in a system will become a much-prized skill.
6. Dismantlers – Every industry will eventually end, and this requires talented people who know how to scale things back in an orderly fashion.
7. Feedback Loopers – Those who can devise the best possible feedback loops.
8. Backlashers – Ever new technology will have its detractors, and each backlash will require a response.
9. Last Milers – Technologies commonly reach a point of diminishing returns as they attempt to extend their full capacity to the end user. People with the ability to mastermind these solutions will be in hot demand.
10. Contexualists – In between the application and the big picture lays the operational context for every new technology.
11. Ethicists – There will be an ever-growing demand for people who can ask the tough question and standards for apply moral decency to some increasingly complex situations.
12. Philosophers – With companies in a constant battle over “my-brain-is-bigger-that-your-brain,” it becomes the overarching philosophy that wins the day.
13. Theorists – Every new product, service, and industry begins with a theory.
14. Legacists – Those who are passionate and skilled with leaving a legacy.
162 Jobs of the Future
Predicting future jobs is an exercise that involves looking at future industries and speculating on ways in which they will be different than 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.
At the same time there will be many less-obvious positions that will need to be created. This is about those less-obvious positions.
The following is not an exhaustive list, nor do these job titles all have good explanations. Rather, this column is intended to be a thought-generator, an idea-sparker, to help you draw your own conclusions.
Personal Rapid Transit Systems (PRTs)
PRTs like Hyperloop, Skytran, Jpods, and ET3 offer a new dimension in transportation. They operate above the fray, independent of the frenetic energy of today’s highways, airports, train, and bus depots. Details here.
1. Station Designers & Architects
2. Circulation Engineers
3. Traffic Flow Analyzers
4. Command Center Operators
5. Traffic Transitionists
6. Impact Minimizers
7. Demand Optimizers
8. Secondary Opportunity Developers
9. Feedback Loopers
10. Construction Teams – 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.Details here.
Fog nets for harvesting water
Atmospheric Water Harvesters
One of today’s most significant breakthroughs is happening in the area of atmospheric water harvesters, being developed by a new breed of water innovators intent on solving one of earth’s most vexing problems.
11. Site Collection Lease Managers
12. System Architects
13. Water Supply Transitionists
14. Purification Monitors
15. Impact Assessors
Creating the God Globe
The “God Globe” is intended to be a master command center for planet earth, where we will, for the first time ever, begin to control nature’s greatest forces. Details here.
16. Global System Architect
17. Data Integration Manager
18. Inflectionists – Those who can pinpoint the optimal intersection of time, place, and information for change to occur.
19. Fear Containment Managers
20. Privacy Theorists, Philosophers, and Ethicists
The Sharing Economy
The sharing economy is creating some amazing business models around the use of “other people’s stuff.”
21. Sharability Auditors – People who analyze homes and businesses for sharable assets.
22. Corporate Sharing Managers
23. Opportunity Spotters
24. Impact Assessors
25. Involvement Specialists
The Quantified Self
The “quantified self” is all about building a measurable information sphere around each of us. As we get better acquainted with the Delphic maxim “know thyself,” we will become far more aware of our deficiencies and the pieces needed to shore up our shortfalls. Details here.
26. Quantified Self Assessment Auditors
27. Data Contexualists
28. Deficiency Analyzers
29. Skill Quantifiers
30. Bio-Waste Optimizers
31. Guardians of Privacy
Sports have become the ultimate form of storytelling. Each contest is a test of the human spirit, with good guys and bad guys pairing off, amidst great drama, as contestants test their limits overcoming adversity, to achieve an unknown outcome. And all of this is happening in real time. Details here.
32. Simulation Specialists
33. Genetic Modification Designers and Engineers
34. Body Modification Ethicists
35. Athlete Qualification Analyzers
36. Cradle to Grave Lifecycle Managers
37. Super Baby Designers
38. Super Baby Psychologists
39. Super Baby Advocates
Commercial Drone Industry
The U.S. Congress has mandated the FAA develop a plan to incorporate drones into national airspace by Sept. 30, 2015. Many in this new industry are chomping at the bit to get started.
40. Drone Classification Gurus – Different laws will apply to different classifications of drone vehicles.
41. Drone Standards Specialists
42. Drone Docking Designers and Engineers
43. Operator Certification Specialists
44. Environmental Minimizers – Sound diminution engineers, visual aesthetic reductionists, etc.
45. Drone Traffic Optmizers
46. Automation Engineers
47. Backlash Minimizers – Ever new technology has its detractors, this perhaps more than most.
On the path to a trillion sensors
Our Trillion-Sensor Future
Industry experts are now projecting that we will reach 1 trillion sensors in the world by 2024, and 100 trillion by 2036.
48. Sensor Inventors, Designers, and Engineers
49. Data Stream Organizers
50. Failure Point Assessors
51. Data Transmission Optimizers
52. System Anthropologists
53. Data Actuaries
54. Last Milers – People who specialize in bridging the gap between where the data fields end and the user communities begin.
3D printed “mini me” action figure
3D printing was recently named by Goldman Sachs as one of eight technologies destined to creatively destroy how we do business. As an industry making inroads in thousands of different businesses simultaneously, former Wired Magazine editor Chris Anderson is famously quoted as saying, “3D printing will be bigger than the Internet.”
55. Automation Auditors – Assessing what parts, processes, and systems can be automated.
56. Material Experts
57. Design Engineers
58. Cost Estimators
59. 3Dimensionalists – Those with an innate ability to think three dimensionally.
60. 3D Printer “Ink” Developers
61. 3D Food Printer Chef
62. 3D Printed Clothing Fashion Designers, Material Specialists, and Stylists
63. Organ Agents – 3D printed organs are now being created and are in hot demand.
64. Manufacturing Process Consultants
65. Maintenance Guys
Redefining our relationship with “things”
Internet of Things
Seventy-five billion is the number of devices that Morgan Stanley has calculated will be connected to the Internet of Things by 2020. That’s 9.4 devices for every one of the 8 billion people that will be on earth in only seven years. IBM even created a starter kit to help people get started.
66. Locationists – People who specialize in adding the relevance of “place” to our global online communities.
67. Lifestyle Auditors
68. Efficiency Consultants
69. Ownership Network Setup Specialists – Everything people own over a certain value can be tagged, tracked, and monitored.
70. Augmented Reality Architects – Much like the paint we put on houses and the flavorings we add to food, the future will seem boring if our reality hasn’t been augmented in some way.
71. Avatar Relationship Managers – As the foibles of humanity enter the realm of autonomous, freethinking avatars, people will find it necessary to both manage and limit the often-dangerous relationships avatars get themselves into.
Social media, blogs, web browsing, and company’s security systems are all generating enormous quantities of data, and it all needs to be stored, managed, analyzed, and protected.
72. Data Interface Mavens
73. Opportunity Spotters
74. Waste Data Managers – To insure data integrity in today’s fast evolving information storage industry, multiple redundancies have been built into the system. Achieving more streamline data storage in the future will require de-duplication specialists who can rid our data centers of needless copies and frivolous clutter.
75. Computer Personality Designers – Talking back and forth to a computer that has a machine-like voice is boring. But being able to download specific “personality packages” will add an entirely new level of engagement for basement-dwellers everywhere.
76. Data Hostage Specialists – Holding people as hostages is very messy. But holding data hostage is a less-risky crime that can be done remotely, and has the potential for far greater rewards.
77. Smart Contact App Developers – Smart contact lenses superimpose information on the wearer’s field of view.
The bank of the future
Crypto Currencies & Alternative Financial Systems
In 2008 the entire world was beginning to panic as our global financial systems teetered ever so close to total meltdown. Major banks were either failing or near failure, and the entire house of cards seemed to be one 10-of-Clubs away from becoming a meaningless flat stack in the middle of the table. Out of this growing distrust of banks, Wall Street, and our entire monetary system, the age of crypto currencies was born.
78. Crypto Currency Bankers, Regulators, and Lawyers
79. Currency Adoption Specialists
80. Anonymity Advocates
81. Theft Recovery Specialists
82. Crypto Currency Theorists, Philosophers, and Evangelists
83. Currency Strategists
84. Monetary Exchange Interface Experts
85. Standards Developers
86. Lending Tacticians
87. Seed Capitalists – In the startup business world there is a huge gulf between initial concept and fundable prototypes. This dearth of funding options will require an entirely new profession.
88. Privacy Managers – If you think you have lost most of your privacy already, we’ve only scratched the surface. We are all terminally human, and as such, we do not always make good decisions. Striking the perfect privacy-transparency balance will require far more than amateur insights. It will require privacy professionals.
89. Secondary Opportunity Maximizers
Micro Grid Conversion
Over the coming years, the national electric grid will be broken into a series of micro grids. Details here.
90. Micro Grid Strategists
91. Mass Energy Storage Developers – We are still terrible at storing energy from one day to the next. Once mass energy storage systems are developed, micro grids become infinitely more viable.
92. System Transitionists
93. Power Conversion Specialists
94. Efficiency Optimizers
95. Benefits Translators
96. Secondary Opportunity Expansionists
97. Backlash Minimizers
3D Printed Houses
Contour Crafted Houses
Many people think of contour crafting as 3D printing for houses, but Professor Behrokh Khoshnevis from the University of Southern California sees it as much more. In addition to it’s ability to print an entire house in less than a day, it can be used to eliminate slums, help rebuild areas after a natural disasters, and even build large buildings and luxury homes with custom architectural features that can be changed with only a few clicks of a mouse. Details here.
98. Construction Material Designers
99. Structural Engineers
100. Site Planners
101. Setup Teams
102. Tear-Down Teams
103. Cleanup Teams
Drivers need not apply!
Driverless technology will initially require a driver, but it will quickly creep into everyday use much as airbags did. First as an expensive option for luxury cars, but eventually it will become a safety feature stipulated by the government.
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.
104. Delivery Dispatchers
105. Traffic Monitoring System Planners, Designers, and Operators
106. Automated Traffic Architects and Engineers
107. Driverless “Ride Experience” Designers
108. Driverless Operating System Engineers.
109. Emergency Crews for when things go wrong.
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 not only promises to revolutionize the chemical industry but also transform the economy. Hundreds of products are already in the pipeline.
110. Nano-Medics – The medical problems most people have can be traced to a single cell or a small group of them. Health professionals capable of working on the nano-level, both in designing diagnostics systems, remedies, and monitoring solutions will be in high demand.
111. Bio-Factory Doctors, Strategists, and Developers
112. DNA Scientists
113. Gene Sequencers
114. Treatment Monitors
The systems used to create colleges centuries ago seems justifiably primitive by today’s standards. Learning formulas for nearly every degree are based on hours, one of the least important considerations when it comes to assessing talent. 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. Details here.
115. School Designers
116. Policy Advisors
117. Career Transitionists
118. Goal Counselors
119. Student Relationship Managers
120. Student Mentors, Coaches, and Counselors
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.
121. Legacists – Managing people’s legacy
122. Lifestyle Housing Designers
123. Aging Specialists
124. Situational Therapists
125. Life-Stage Attendants
126. Memorial Designers
127. Octogenarian Service Providers – As the population continues the age we will have record numbers of people living into their 80s, 90s, and 100s. This mushrooming group of active oldsters will provide a demand for goods and services currently not being addressed in today’s marketplace.
When people think of farming, they typically conjure up images of a tractor cresting a hill billowing large plumes of exhaust into the air. This image will become a distant memory as automated machines, drones, and swarmbots enter the pictures. As with all industries, there are many micro-forces driving the changes in future agriculture. But there are three dominant trend lines – precision, relevance, and control – that will be driving this industry.
128. Plant-Jackers and Tree-Jackers – Plant and tree alteration specialists, who manipulate growth patterns, create grow-to-fit wood products, color-changing leaves, personalized fruit, etc.
129. Molecular Gastronomists
130. Bio-Meat Factory Engineers
131. Supply Chain Optimizers
132. Urban Agriculturalists – Why ship food all the way around the world when it can be grown next door.
133. Bio-Hacking Inspectors and Security
134. Swarmbot and Drone Operators and Managers
135. Plant Educators – An intelligent plant will be capable of re-engineering itself to meet the demands of tomorrow’s marketplace. Plant educators will not work with lesson plans or PowerPoint presentations, but the learning process will be even more effective.
136. Plant Psychologists & Plant Therapists – As we mess with the “minds” of the plants, there will invariably be any number of unplanned reactions.
Over the coming years will see a number of industries dismantled, and this will require a skilled workforce of talented people who can perform this task in the least disruptive way. It’s easy to spot these industries by their aging systems, facilities, and infrastructure. In many cases they have become unnecessary and unsustainable in the future, and will be scaled back to a fraction of their current size.
137. Prison System Dismantlers – Details here.
138. Hospital and Healthcare Dismantlers – Details here.
139. Income Tax System Dismantlers – Details here.
140. Government Agency Dismantlers – Details here.
141. Education System Dismantlers – Details here.
142. College and University Dismantlers – Details here.
143. Airport Security Systems Dismantlers
144. Airport Customs Dismantlers
Living on the edge of tomorrow!
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.
145. Extinction Revivalists – People who revive extinct animals.
146. 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.
147. Avatar Designers – Next generation avatars will become indistinguishable from humans on a two-dimensional screen. However, avatars will only live in the computer world for a short time longer. It is only a matter of time before they emerge from the computer and appear as visual beings, walking around among us. Once an avatar goes through the radical metamorphosis from an image that we see on a screen to a three dimensional being that joins us for dinner, carries on conversations with our friends, and serves as a stand-in for us at meetings, we will see work start on an even more realistic avatar, one that we can touch.
148. Gravity Pullers – The first wave of people to unlock the code for influencing gravity.
149. Time Hackers – If we think cyber terrorists are a pain, it will seem like nothing compared to devious jerry-riggers who start manipulating the time fabric of our lives.
150. 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.”
151. Body Part & 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.
152. Global System Architects – Our systems are transitioning from national systems into global systems. Architects of these new global systems will play a crucial role in future global politics.
153. 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.
154. Time Brokers – Time Bank Traders – Where do you go when you run out of time? Naturally, to the time-bank, and take out a time-loan.
155. 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.
156. Brain Quants – Where the stock market manipulators of the past meet the brain manipulators of the future to usurp control of marketing and messaging on Madison Avenue.
157. Nano-Weapons Specialists – Many of the weapons of the future will be too small to be seen by the human eye.
158. Lip Designers – If you could have any lips in the world, what would they look like?
159. Earthquake Forecasters – Everything we know about the inside of the earth has been developed through indirect evidence. We have no maps of the center of the earth. We have no accurate diagrams, no understanding of motion, fluidity, or changes happening with any degree of accuracy. While scientists are developing skills to work with nanoscale precision on the earth’s surface, the best we can muster below the surface is blindfolded guesswork done with 100-mile precision.
160. “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 opportunity for non-surface based housing and transportation systems, weather control, and other kinds of experimentation.
161. Amnesia Surgeons – Doctors who are skilled in removing bad memories or destructive behavior.
162. 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.
In much the same way that the 1985 Apple LaserWriter gave birth to desktop publishing, the 2010 MakerBot’s Thing-O-Matic 3D printer gave birth to desktop manufacturing.
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.
The list above is just scratching the surface. 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 system thinking to unleash these pent up ambitions.
Please feel free to join in the discussion and weigh in with your thoughts below. Your ideas, comments, and opinions are much appreciated.
Author of “Communicating with the Future” – the book that changes everything