Future Jobs: Why We Need to Predict Them

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

How would you like to be an algorithmic ethicist? Or perhaps a dark warehouse operator? Maybe even an EV Station Overseer? You could perhaps, be a blockchain banking engineer or a superstructure printer as this article from a few years ago suggests. Less than 20 years ago a Full Stack DevOps job title was unheard of or even a social media manager. What these roles today are and in the future too will be, are what economists, sociologists and cultural anthropologists call, the division of labour.

A favourite of futurists is coming up with really cool new job titles. Tech media likes it as well. But why do they do this? It can actually be quite helpful. Good futurists put a fair bit of work into making these predictions.

The division of labour as an idea goes way back to Plato, who is often credited by economists as the originator of the idea. As a concept, it was further debated and developed by sociologists like Max Weber and Émile Durkheim as well as economists like Adam Smith. Boiled down, it is how humans get jobs done, what kinds of jobs are needed in an industry and country.

As humans invented new technologies and we stayed in places for longer periods of time, building cities and agricultural systems, new skills emerged. To our foraging ancestors the concept of a “farmer” would have seemed outlandish and ridiculous.

The more complex our world, because of technologies, the “means of production”, the more jobs become highly specialized across different industries. The rise of the internet created hundreds of new types of jobs that never before existed. Network engineers, web designers,UX designers, cybersecurity specialists and so on. Population growth plays a major role as well. The bigger the population the more different types of jobs are needed. Often, new jobs are created to avoid competing with others in an economy.

Other contributing factors in the division of labour are how families are organised, the military, government and cultural beliefs and ideologies.

We’re now creating all kinds of new jobs, both highly skilled and trades. Right now, a software engineer (coder) is considered a highly-skilled job, but in the future it may become a trade like plumbing or carpentry and be considered more blue than white collar. Coders are becoming like trades already. Not too long from now, the majority code will likely be written by AI technologies.

As we introduce new advanced technologies like Artificial Intelligence and robots into almost every industry, a significant adaptation humans will have to make is to work alongside these technologies. Higher education will become even more critical. It’s why tech entrepreneurs like Jack Ma talk about the need to educate people in the creative arts and critical thinking skills. It’s also why we hear a lot more about systems and complexity thinking. I call this coming period the time of Cognitive Augmentation.

By predicting future job titles, we are telling stories about how we might adapt to survive in our future societies. Companies start to think about these roles for human resource planning, universities and educators in planning for curriculum development.

Many of the futuristic job titles we invent today won’t actually come to pass, but some version of them likely will. As we move further into the digital age, we need to think about future jobs even more. They will not only impact business, government and military but will also significantly impact our cultures and societies.

As Western and some Asian populations continue to decline, technologies like AI and robotics will play a key role in our very survival as nation-states. As we continue to combine technologies in new and innovative ways, exploring future jobs will play a role in economic forecasting and evolving cultures and societies.

In the Cognitive Age, we are about to undergo some fundamental re-thinking of sociocultural systems, economics and even capitalism will fundamentally change. Already the tension between old, analog capital systems and digital capitalist systems is creating social, cultural and economic challenges.

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Giles Crouch | Digital Anthropologist

Giles Crouch | Digital Anthropologist

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Digital / Cultural Anthropologist | Featured in Wired, National Geographic & Forbes | Celt | Explorer | Intensely Curious