You have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. — Steve Jobs
Let’s assume, for purposes of discussion, that computers and robots will capture most of the jobs we work at today. Might there still be something left over for us humans to do? Yes. Here are a few starter ideas:
Driverless vehicle leaser: Uber plans one day to upgrade its service with driverless cars, removing the person behind the wheel and thereby reducing the already low per-mile cost by another dollar. For a time, anyone who owns such a car may be able to lease it to Uber or other fleets. Some owners may become fleet managers in their own right. Talents needed: perseverance, entrepreneurial spirit, ability to repair computerized machinery.
Cyborg stylist: Already we replace old body parts with improved ones: plastic eye lenses (to eliminate cataracts), sophisticated controllable prostheses (to substitute for damaged limbs), cochlear implants (to repair hearing), face transplants, etc. Any of these improvements can alter a recipient’s appearance and body image. To deal with that, specialized stylists will help users select clothing, makeup, and hair that hide, complement, or improve their partially mechanical appearance. Talents needed: fashion background, good color-matching and materials knowledge, creativity, strong people skills.
Hyper-transit tour guide: New forms of mass transport loom on the horizon — hyperloops, maglev suborbital vehicles, scheduled space liners — and consumers will need guidance on how to make proper use of the new vehicles. Tour guides will inform and reassure them, and some will oversee groups that board the newfangled transit systems for vacations, junkets, and professional travel. Talents needed: good grasp of technical underpinnings of new transit systems, strong presentation and people skills.
Wrist TV accessorizer: Those cyberwatches everyone’s buying come with a variety of straps, but what about matching jewelry and clothing? Plus you’ll want to look your best when using your watch to video-conference. Consultants will station themselves at department and specialty stores or be available by appointment. Talents needed: fashion sense, good sales skills, strong people skills.
Financial planner for the unemployed: Within thirty years, it’s likely most people in Western nations will be out of work, rendered obsolete by sophisticated computer-controlled processes. It’s also likely that some sort of national minimum income will fend off wholesale rioting and food panics. But this won’t be enough, as each person will have a unique financial situation and will need advice on how best to parlay government payments, pensions, retirement accounts, and any spare investment income into a livable budget. Talents needed: strong background in finance, strong people skills, good sales skills.
Space station vacation planner: As with hyper-transit tour guides (above), there will be big demand for people who can apply the human touch and smooth a customer’s path to a rewarding experience on a space station or orbital cruise ship. Talents needed: experience in the travel industry, good grasp of basics of zero-gee and zero-atmosphere environments, strong grasp of ship functions, strong people skills.
Robot maintenance: Most repair jobs will probably be done by other machines, but every now and then the repairer will have trouble mending itself, and that’s when people can step in to help. Talents needed: strong computer and mechanical skills.
Craftsperson: No matter how wonderful the woodworking and metallurgy of robots, people will still want things created by human hands. Talents needed: experience with materials, knack for creating unique and beautiful items, strong marketing skills.
Artist: What’s true of craftspeople is true of artists: we’ll still want human-made paintings and music to go with our collections of art by automata. Talents needed: originality, strong technical skills, strong marketing skills.
Sports player: Robots will probably play football for our amusement, but we’ll still want to see what humans can achieve on the field. Thus sports will continue to employ people. Talents needed: roughly same as today, including top-tier athletic skills, ability to take orders, working well in groups.
Explorer: More and more, machines are sent to investigate remote areas (including outer space). But we won’t really trust the resulting data until we can go there for ourselves. Talents needed: perseverance, fearlessness, unquenchable optimism, tremendous energy and stamina, strong sales skills (to generate grant money for the trip).
Consultant: It’s likely (though this may be wishful thinking on my part) that future humans, after conferring with intelligent machines on difficult questions, will want a second opinion from a real person. Talents needed: creative problem-solving skills, large knowledge base in the relevant field, strong computer skills, strong people skills, good marketing skills.
Business owner: Once automation throws most of us out of work, you’ll do better if you can own the machines and the profits they generate. Done right, this will afford you a better living than that enjoyed by others, most of whom will be dependent on some kind of government dole. Talents needed: good business administration skills, good negotiating skills, entrepreneurial spirit, ability to plan ahead (read: starting now) in anticipation of the sea change in the workplace that will sweep across the coming generation. The sooner you own all or part of a profitable business, the safer you’ll be.
Of course, these won’t be the only jobs performed by humans in the near future. There are many other possibilities worth considering.
The worst thing is to declare, “Machines will never replace me!” (That’s a classic case of famous last words.) The best thing is to plan ahead for a brave new world that may cause both trauma and wonder and will reward those who are prepared. Don’t assume one of the above jobs will be yours for the taking, but instead see now to your future financial security.
It’s wise to remember that computerized machines, though they may usher in an era of untold abundance, are not there to make you happy. They’re there to make their owners happy, and that won’t always comport with your personal needs. You can accept the largesse of some upcoming economic miracle, but it may not last forever or unfold in a totally benign manner. Don’t expect developments always to favor you, and do expect that you will have to perform at least some work or oversight to maintain your lifestyle.
To see to your well-being, now and in the future, avoid passive reliance on developments and, instead, make sure of it yourself. That way, you’ll greet whatever comes, not with trepidation, but with anticipation.