YouTube clips of Google’s killer robots jumping on tables and doing back flips in top secret lab operated by Dr. Evil wannabes are unsettling. Could armies of these machines be capable of taking over the world some day, or at least small countries like Luxembourg or Sweden, in a scenario reminiscent of Star Wars II: Attack of the Clones?
Maybe not, but it won’t be long before we see killer robots replacing humans in perilous SEAL Team Six missions like the one that got Osama bin Laden in Pakistan. The fact is that new technologies, led by an intersection of artificial intelligence (AI), robotics and Internet of Things (IoT), are replacing humans in the mainstream economy at an alarming rate.
The changes are bringing opportunity as well. For example, the plague of fake news and abusive social media posts has spawned a new role: the social media news fact checker. Facebook has staffed up to the tune of 20,000 employees and contractors who handle “safety and security” issues. Mind you, viewing 8,000 posts a day, many of them violent or sadistic, for $13-$28 an hour at these jobs and similar ones at Google has the potential to be traumatizing.
Most of the media attention has been on the negative impact of technology on the employment outlook. Automated cashiers are stealing humans jobs at major retailers across the country. The financial services industry has been transformed by digital innovations that automate credit decisions and replace salariedinvestment advisors who expense martini lunches with computer algorithms. Amazon’s drones will soon be taking the jobs of couriers who today hand deliver packages. Driverless trucks are expected to put millions of truck drivers out of work. Alvin Toffler described some of this hyper-kinetic change and its negative consequences more than 40 years ago in his best seller Future Shock. Today this workplace revolution is being called Industry 4.0, or the fourth industrial revolution to hit the planet since the 18th century.
If literature and science fiction have anything to teach us, then a dystopian future of the kind described in George Orwell’s 1984 or James Cameron’s Avatar is more likely than the relative Utopia of the Jetsons. But with new technologies also come new opportunities. Here’s a list of 10 jobs of the future you should start training for now to get ahead of the employment curve:
1. Cryptocurrency Banker: A large percentage of online trades and global money transfers are already being done with alternative currencies like bitcoin and ethereum. That means the stage is set for the emergence of cryptocurrency banks, virtual financial institutions with no fixed address who co-ordinate a significant chunk of capital flows inside countries and between countries. Yes, these banks will be powered by AI and server farms in places like China and India, but these systems will also need the support of next-gen bankers —technologists who have an understanding of how banking works. People working in the IT departments of this country’s Big Five banks are ideally situated to make a leap into this emerging and lucrative industry.
WATCH: ‘Cashman’ Russell Oliver explains Bitcoin
2. Data Hostage Specialist: This is similar to the privacy specialist but with an added layer of know-how. The fact is that holding data hostage, whether it belongs to individuals, companies or hospitals, has become an enormously profitable endeavour. Ransomware is cheap to write and if your tablet or IT network has a security hole, your goose is cooked. Individual ransoms may be a few hundred dollars worth of bitcoin. But corporate ransoms can cost millions of dollars. A data hostage specialist would have the software tools to free data being held hostage, or at least reproduce it on a clean system so a hospital could continue to care for patients. If this tack failed he would negotiate with the captors to ensure the data has not been corrupted or sold, and attempt to reduce the ransom payment, thereby justifying a six-figure fee for his services.
3. Food Engineer: We already have labs messing with the genetic code of salmon and various fruits and vegetables to speed up growth and yield. Frankenfoods will become hugely important in the future as the world’s population continues to grow exponentially while the food supply remains largely constant. Food engineers will need to create appealing new bio-meat products and cross-bred plants that are tastier, cheaper and more resistant to disease. Would sir like his St. Bernard-Pacific dolphin striploin cooked rare?
4. 3D Food Printer Engineer: Are you ready for 3D printers that work with cartridges containing food stocks, flavours and proteins? These gastronomic wonders will be able to print out custom diets or never-before tasted delicacies. How about a dazzling blend of Pétrus Bordeaux wine, beluga caviar and Aquitaine foie gras with the consistency of asparagus?
5. Business Colony Manager: With more and more people choosing to be self-employed, in about 10 years the average person who turns 30 will have worked on more than 200 different projects. As a result business colonies that match skills and projects have emerged as an important new organizational structure. Some have a core of workers in a physical space, some do not. Business school grads and project managers who can effectively manage a virtual workplace, offering the colony the right combination of compensation, structure and reward, will be in high demand.
6. Chief Data Officer: This will be the next big position to join the C-suite. Companies are increasingly using analytics to successfully leverage big data and create a better customer experience. As more data is generated by technologies such as IoT, there will be a need for experts to find valuable insights that result in a competitive advantage that increases market share and profitability. The CDO will also be responsible for managing government regulations. Watch out, CMOs.
7. Privacy Specialist: Hacking has become a full-time job for millions of people, either as freelancers or government agents. They wake up in the morning, drive their kids to school and start engaging in criminal activity from the safety of their home. In this reality, privacy has become harder than ever to safeguard, particularly with online shopping, banking and cryptocurrency trading. Not a week goes by without a major corporate site getting hacked and millions of personal records being stolen. Identity theft is a real problem and a privacy specialist would help minimize the risk for clients. For example Google two-factor authentication, sometimes called 2FA, is an additional layer of security you can add to any log-in process. You get the six-digit code from your phone that changes every few minutes, making it near impossible to hack.
8. Human Organ Designer or Clone Rancher: We’re already studying ways to reproduce organs by using living cells. This highly skilled job of the future will require bio-technicians to make customized organs for people who need replacement parts in the same way your car does. Place the recipient’s body on a hoist and get to work like Dr. Frankenstein did. One step beyond this reality is the clone rancher. He will have much in common with the Alberta cattle rancher with one small exception – his job will be raising blank humans. Once a free range clone is selected at auction, a personality app of choice will be downloaded and the clone will become the ultimate baby sitter or butler.
9. Crowdfunding Organizer: Crowdfunding has become a super popular way to start a new business or raise money for a charity or cause using social media. Typically crowdfunding campaigns have a time limit for attracting investors and donations, in some cases requiring the money raised to be returned if a target is not met. A crowdfunding organizer’s job is formulate a business strategy and work social media with promotional texts, tweets and videos to maximize contributions during the campaign. The aspirational rule of thumb is that for every 10,000 followers on social media a company or non-profit can raise $1 million.
10. Avatar Designer or Avatar Relationship Manager: Avatars are already indistinguishable from humans in the online and VR world. It’s only a matter of time before they make the transition to the real world as life-sized, holographic images – taller, better looking and more interesting than our real selves. They will act and speak for us at business meetings and social gatherings. I’m sorry but that’s not me you married in Bora Bora, it was my much younger looking avatar acting up again! As semi-autonomous avatars begin to inhabit the real world, we will need next-gen PR professionals to manage their public image. Also to help them get out of trouble or dangerous relationships, sometimes with other avatars.
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