The jobs you’ll be doing in 10 years
A little disclaimer for you before we start here, everything in this article from the BBC *may* not be true. It might be, but then again it might not. It’s a little far-fetched but you’ll get the point!
The movie Hidden Figures(out 17 Feb) is the true story of three remarkable African-American women at NASA in the Sixties. Set during a huge period of change, when computers arrive that can do an entire department’s work in the blink of an eye, it’s only our protagonists’ ability to adapt that keeps them in a job.
That might have been the Sixties – but the fear of technology stepping into our jobs is even more relevant today. The imaginings of science fiction fantasy writers like Isaac Asimov are fast becoming a reality, with AI now writing its own screenplay, beating human poker players and spotting skin cancer as accurately as a doctor. There’s even a hotel in Japan staffed almost entirely by robots.
Computerisation is predicted to make nearly half of jobs redundant within 10 to 20 years. It’s gloomy news we’ve all heard before.
Yet, as leading futurologist James Bellini tells me, it’s a cycle that’s been happening forever. “Tech comes along and takes away jobs, and then in turn, it creates more.”
So while traditional career paths like accountancy, administration or nursing could be taken on by the bots, futurologists are confident about that same technology creating a spate of brand new employment, from robot psychiatry to space farming.
And this ‘future’ isn’t light-years away. We’re talking the next 10-15 years.
So what are these career options of the future? And what are the industries that will see the biggest change? I spoke to two leading futurologists, James Bellini and Ian Pearson, to get their thoughts.
The world’s population is estimated to reach 9.7 billion by 2050(up from around 7.3 billion people today). This will put a massive strain on the planet’s ability to support – and feed – us all. Junk food can only get us so far.
A creative approach to the food industry will therefore become essential, and with that, a host of new career opportunities…
As cities expand and the countryside shrinks, we will rely increasingly on urban farming solutions for sustainable food production.
As James Bellini says, “People will one day look back at us in the 21st century and laugh that we used to grow anything horizontally.”
And where we cannot grow up, we can simply grow under. Underground farming may seem like an unlikely solution, but it’s already started to take off across Tokyo, Seattle, Singapore, New York and even London.
Michael Roux was behind London’s first subterranean farm, opening in a WWII bomb shelter beneath the Northern Line in Clapham in 2015.
How do you produce enough protein for billions more mouths, when the livestock industry already takes such a toll on the environment?
James Bellini believes the answer lies in insects– and that insect cultivation will become a perfectly plausible job.
A recent report by the UK Government’s waste agency agrees, stating insects should
become a staple of people’s diets around the world as an environmentally friendly alternative to meat.
Termite and fries, anyone?
With more bodies on Earth and an ageing population, the already strained healthcare system will be under huge pressure. Robot doctors are predicted to start dominating surgery, but there’s plenty of human healthcare we’ll still need.
If James Bellini describes ‘genomics’ as “messing about with genes to create medical opportunities,” then bio printing is effectively genomics plus a 3D printer.
(Speak to any futurologist for long enough, and you’ll realise that 3D, and even 4D printing, is basically the future of everything.)
Bio printing works by artificially constructing living tissue by outputting layer upon layer of living cells, so we can hypothetically print anything from a new nose to a new liver.
In fact, working prototypes of 3D-printed ears already exist.
With this kind of technology, there are almost limitless possibilities of what we can do. Molecular biologist Aubrey Degray has already gone as far to say that that the first human to live for over 1,000 years is already born, thanks to such medical advances being on the horizon.
Futurologists agree this ‘brave new world’ concept is easily within our grasp, where the genes of your future offspring can be hand-picked.
Ian Pearson believes a job designing babies to its parents’ requirements is entirely possible. The bigger question however, is whether our ethical code will allow it.
As Britain’s space business booms, being recently valued at £12 billion, trips abroad may become trips beyond. James Bellini believes our big space push is only just beginning.
NASA plans to send humans to an asteroid by 2025, and to send a mission out to Mars in the 2030s. Fancy being a part of that? NASA are already hiring.
It won’t all be fun and games in space though. As James Bellini points out, when we do get to Mars, those who colonise it are more likely to be farmers than astronauts, since how else will we sustain ourselves?
Space Tour Guide
Tired of your 9-5? How does guiding people through the interstellar bounds of Earth’s orbit sound?
Thanks to endeavours like Virgin Galactic, Richard Branson’s first commercial spaceflight, space will become a new frontier for adventurous travellers by 2026. A whole range of jobs will appear, making space tourism as everyday as hopping on the open-air tour bus around Bedford. Sort of.
Ian Pearson believes we’ll need people who can psychoanalyse AI, as that can’t always be dealt with by a piece of software. We’ll need people who can talk to the robots and help them to self diagnose.
More generally, helping or fixing robots in any way is set to become big business.
Virtual habitat designer
While VR currently amounts to someone with their head in a cardboard box flailing their arms around at parties, it’s an industry set to be worth $40 billion by 2020.
Tens of millions of us are predicted to be spending hours working and learning in virtual reality environments by 2026. Visual architects and designers develop buildings, worlds and avatars, creating bold new worlds without limitations.
Ethical Technology Advocate
It’s estimated there will be an extra 55,790 new jobs in the field of robotic engineering by 2018 alone. Technology is advancing far faster than a code of ethics can keep up – so we’re going to need someone to be in charge of sussing that out.
This job will act as a go-between for humans, robots and AI, setting out moral guidelines for ethical issues like baby designers, or robots that can cause harm.
In a vastly overpopulated 2025, traditional conservation won’t be enough. De-extinction zoologists will work on reintroducing plants and animals that have gone extinct, patching together viable ecosystems for them to thrive in.
The woolly mammoth, or even the dodo, could well be wandering around again one day.
Sustainable Power Innovator
Or in layman’s terms, massive-battery makers. By the mid 2020s, resource depletion will mean a shift to sustainable energy – entirely dependant on our ability to store it.
Sustainable Power Innovators will be the experts in creating new battery storage capabilities, to keep the lights (and the internet) on.
The future therefore, could hold infinite, exciting possibilities. Yet, as James Bellini adamantly points out – there’s only so much that can be predicted.
“A lot will surprise us. If you’d asked me, or any futurologist in 2000, about the great development of this decade – none of us would have said social media. Which is now this huge, indispensable part of life.”
Ian Pearson has it right, when he looks at the future as something to be excited rather than scared about. If the characters of Hidden Figures could adapt successfully in the Sixties, then we have every chance of doing the same now.