According to DaVinci Institute futurist and executive director, Thomas Frey, job training may be a thing of the past. With the automation of jobs, as well as the creation of new ones, people will need a better way to transition into another industry quickly and seamlessly.

According to research from Oxford University, 40% of the world’s current jobs will be taken over by machines by around 2030. But Thomas Frey’s presentation to staff, students and businesses at AUT on Tuesday was not pessimistic.

We have been in this position before – many of the jobs that existed in the 19th and early 20th century no longer exist.  Innovation brings opportunities for new types of roles and Frey described technologies that will create a series of strange-sounding jobs over the next 20 years.

Disruptive innovations are automating jobs out of existence at all levels: Uber and AirBNB are threatening middle management and the apps on our smart phones are threatening manufacturing, shipping and retail.

Frey calls this the “level problem” – we can download an app that will measure if pictures are level and this means that we no longer need to manufacture the tool, we don’t need to distribute it or sell it in hardware stores.

There are currently 8,000 start ups in the USA targeting the financial sector – it’s death by 1,000 paper cuts for the banking industry.

But catalytic innovations bring with them the opportunity for many new kinds of jobs.  Frey distinguishes between a disruptive innovation that disrupts existing industries forcing business to do more with less and catalytic innovation, which is the introduction of entirely new industries.  Electricity and photography are examples of past catalytic innovations.

One fascinating catalytic innovation is atmospheric water collection – technologies that extract moisture from the air that will generate a number of new jobs, such as water supply transitionists, purification monitors and site collection lease managers!

Future opportunities will come from the Internet of Things (when we and our machines are connected by 1 trillion sensors), from drones, virtual or augmented reality, and 3D printing.

Jobs in the future may include:  3Dimensionalists, 3D food printer chef, sensor modeller, data modeller, privacy manager, VR designer, system anthropologist, augmented reality architect, and drone traffic optimiser!

The other opportunity that comes with the rise of the machine is freed up human capability – we can set our sights higher and tackle some mega projects such as global tube transportation or controlling the weather at a macro level, for eg: steering hurricanes away from land.

With the automation of jobs will come a period of unrest and unemployment and the need for people to transition to new industries.  Frey predicts people will need to reboot their careers every six years through micro colleges.

As our very own Luke Krieg, Customer Manager said in his closing remarks:

“The days of studying for a career are over.  Technical skills are useful but you should make the most of time at university to become an excellent person as you don’t know how long before your humanity is the thing that sets you apart from the competition.”

This was a great topic for AUT and their intern programme to consider and people enthusiastically debated the issues long after the formal session ended. It was also a great way to showcase a partnership between Callaghan Innovation and AUT as we have supported the InterNZ programme at AUT since 2014 that pairs students with businesses receiving our grants.

Thomas Frey was in New Zealand as a guest of Callaghan Innovation for Beyond the Line of Sight.

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