From robocop coordinators to chief augmentation officers, what jobs will our kids do?

Futurist Rohit Talwar, along with Steve Wells, Alexandra Whittington, April Koury and Helena Calle of the Fast Future research company, take a look at some of the new jobs likely to emerge in the coming decade.

In January 2010 we wrote a report for the UK Government on The Shape of Jobs to Come. This highlighted new jobs that might emerge in the global economy by 2030 as a result of exponential developments and breakthroughs in science and technology. Many of those are now real jobs and the rest are still likely to materialise.

As an update on those ideas, our recent books The Future of Business, Beyond Genuine Stupidity – Ensuring AI Serves Humanity, and The Future Reinvented – Reimagining Life, Society, and Business discuss a range of new industries and professions that might emerge as a result of these advances. Here is a selection of 12 new jobs that we think could rise to the fore in the coming decade.

Lifestyle support

Urban foraging educator

In the coming decade and beyond, food scarcity may force more of the world’s people to forage for healthy food. In cities, where most of the population will be concentrated, urban foraging education could become a matter of survival. There may be a demand for experts to train the public in identifying poisonous plants, edible weeds, and wild fruits or vegetables so that the population can survive future food shortages. Schools, governments and private educational providers might seek to hire experts in urban foraging. Future foraging professionals could become as beloved (and marketable) as the celebrity chefs of today.

Life manager for the techno–bewildered

Those who struggle with technology and get left behind in the new world order might find themselves placed under the mentorship of new world social workers. These ‘life managers’ would supervise our every decision, guide us on how to navigate the day-to-day, and help ensure we use our finances or guaranteed basic incomes in a sustainable manner.

Sexual compatibility consultant

The risk of choosing an inappropriate partner and then having the ‘wrong’ child could see the rise of compatibility specialists. These experts would use AI algorithms to assess everything from IQ and EQ to genetic makeup and family medical history to try to ensure we find the right mating partner.

End of life planner/death strategist

As lifespans are extended for those who can afford it, deciding when to die becomes a difficult decision. Our choices will need to factor in emotional, healthcare, familial, economic and tax planning criteria when making the decision. This will give rise to a new death management profession – part GP, part financial advisor, part family therapist and part grief counsellor.

New societal roles

Robot whisperer

Artificially intelligent robots may comprise a significant part of the future workforce in retail, food service and hospitality. Companies may require a staff of professional human ‘robot whisperers’ to stand guard whenever the bots interact with the public. This job would involve behind-the-scenes monitoring of robotic chefs and customer service robots to make sure they don’t run over a person’s foot, knock over a gas grill or cause other such hazards. The whisperer would also monitor for undesirable behavioural changes as the robots learn from and adapt to their environment. Robot whisperers would be a profession geared toward instilling public trust in robot workers.

Inter–AI conflict resolution specialist

AIs will increasingly need to collaborate. Our personal intelligent assistant may need to interact with the AIs of our bank, our employers and all the vendors who serve us. Not all AIs will be born equal or have common goals, so disputes could arise. Human arbitrators may need to intervene to get the best outcome for humanity in these disputes.

Robocop coordinator

With the increasing capability of AI and robotics, policing could be undertaken by automated robotic systems. These might range from humanoid robots capable of interacting directly with the public, through to autonomous road vehicles and drones for surveillance. Human oversight would enable resources to be deployed based on the recommendations made by automated systems, given the situation observed. The coordinators would be able to supervise a significant number of policing assets, all of which would be capable of operating 24/7.

Offworld governor

Dreams of inhabiting other planets and sub-sea colonies could be realised in the next 10 to 20 years. These new nations will require their own governance systems, behavioural norms, decision-making models, laws and judicial systems. These could vary dramatically from those witnessed on Earth and will, therefore, likely require a very different breed of visionary leaders to envision, run and continuously evolve these new communities.

New professions

Autonomous vehicle ethicist

We will need to establish the guiding principles for decisions made by autonomous vehicles. For example, who or what should the car hit if an accident is inevitable? Depending on where you are in the world, the decision will be governed by different ethical and religious considerations, societal norms and even economic factors.

Synthetic sommelier

The rise in the use of synthetic food products could drive the emergence of experts on all aspects of edible synthetics, lab-grown meat and 3D-printed foodstuffs. These professionals would be excellent at developing the perfect synth meal for any occasion. They could tell you all the differences in smell, taste and texture between the synth food and its authentic counterpart.

Chief augmentation officer (CAO)

Within a decade, an increasing number of staff could be seeking bodily augmentations that render them close to superhuman cyborgs. These humans 2.0 may need to have different management, working conditions and workplace rights – all designed and overseen by the CAO.

Enhancement specialism

Memory adaptation specialist

A memory specialist may help us modify our memories and reduce mental health issues. People would be able to erase traumatic memories and replace them with positive ones, a process that might be conducted by a specialist with training in psychotherapy and neuroscience. Modifying our memories could have a major impact on our personality. The memory specialist would help you choose the traumatic events you needed to erase, and the replacement procedure would be done after a series of introspective consultations. A wide catalog of pleasant memories would be available for your selection, with people choosing what they want to remember.

Rohit Talwar, Steve Wells, Alexandra Whittington, April Koury and Helena Calle are from Fast Future, a foresight firm that specialises in delivering keynote speeches, executive education, research and consulting on the emerging future.

This feature first appeared in The Drum's Future of Work issue, in which we also speak to IBM's Ginni Rometty, Publicis boss Arthur Sadoun, Eric Schmidt and a whole host of industry leaders about what's in store for the workplace.

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