According to an Oxford University analysis, close to half of all jobs will be taken over by robots in the next 25 years. No wonder the press is full of handwringing about how workers will adjust and the best way to prepare the next generation for this A.I.-filled future.
But not everyone is alarmed about the prospect of radical change in the labor market. After all, this has happened before (for instance, when mechanization replaced the vast majority of farmers) and it turned out OK. Plus, a lot of today's jobs are soul-crushingly boring and repetitive. Losing them just might be a blessing.
Among these optimists are IT service company Cognizant. In a recent report (hat tip to Business Insider for the pointer), the consultancy notes that while creative destruction has always been with us, so has reinvention. Sure, robots will take jobs away, but they'll also create new ones.
What will these new gigs look like exactly? The report imagines detailed job ads for 21 future careers that Cognizant thinks may emerge in the next 10 years.
1. Data detective
"Enjoy CSI? Hawaii Five-O? Sherlock? Get a kick out of running down leads, ruling out suspects, and solving whodunits? Then we have the job for you!" Cognizant imagines a fictional ad saying. "We're looking to hire creative, talented individuals who can help us investigate the mysteries in our big data. What is our data telling us? What secrets does it contain?"
This type of position could be a fit for someone with law enforcement experience and basic data skills, or even a curious data-literate graduate looking for an entry-level gig in a field of the future, notes the report. And the jobs be coming incredibly soon -- in just the next few years.
2. Bring-your-own IT facilitator
This is basically the IT help desk professional of the future, curating tools that employees can select and use, helping to ensure those they're supporting get the most out of the tech, and troubleshooting so all the tools play nicely together.
3. Ethical sourcing officer
A tech-saturated world will make a lot of grunt work disappear but it won't eliminate ethical quandaries. (In fact, it might create more of them.) An ethical sourcing officer is a sort of sheriff, ensuring that the priorities and ethical commitments of a big company are actually practiced.
4. Artificial intelligence business development manager
"There is still one thing that A.I. ... won't be able to do for the foreseeable future -- sell itself. Selling A.I. (whether in its 'raw' compute form or packaged into a business service) requires human input and effort," notes Cognizant's imagined ad for this position.
5. Master of edge computing
With computing moving at breakneck speed, big businesses are going to need someone to help them keep up. In this imagined job ad, a Fortune 500 company is looking for someone to entirely reimagine its data infrastructure, ditching data centers in favor of "edge computing."
If that's as baffling to you as it is to me, here's Cognizant's explanation: "Edge computing unleashes the potential of connected hardware devices by decentralizing them to become the data center themselves." That may or may not clear things up.
If all of this chatter about "edge computing" and data sleuthing has your low-tech head spinning, fear not. Cognizant thinks there will be some new gigs for the less tech-obsessed among us, too. In fact, all you need for this one is the ability to walk, talk, and empathize.
"In this technology-rich era, A.I. and automation are performing more jobs, and people are living longer. As a result, there is a pressing need for both the unemployed/underemployed to find new types of work and for the elderly to have companionship," explains Cognizant's faux job ad for a company that connects "seniors with conversational companions in the comfort of their own home and, for our more mobile customers, a person to walk and talk with." No word on whether these home mental health aides of the future will be any better paid than in-home carers these days.
7. Fitness commitment counselor
Another one for the not terribly tech savvy: Apparently, in the future many of us will still be fat and struggling to lose weight, only now we won't be alone with our struggles. We'll track everything relevant with wearable tech and then hire "fitness commitment counselors" to analyze the data and cheer us on.
8. A.I. assisted health care technician
This one seems to be, essentially, nursing updated. You'll need the same health care skills but also the tech savvy to deliver them remotely, using telemedicine tools and in-home testing equipment. Thanks to an A.I. helping hand, nurses will also be able to diagnose and treat more ailments, leaving doctors to support these technicians and handle the trickier cases directly.
9. Cyber city analyst
Smart cities are already being built in Toronto and Arizona. When they're up and running, cyber city analysts will keep the tech underlying the magic in good repair, much like telephone linesmen maintain the infrastructure of today. "Cyber city analysts ensure the steady flow of 'healthy' data around our cities -- including bio data, citizen data, and asset data -- by ensuring all technical and transmission equipment functions without being compromised," says Cognizant's ad for the position.
10. Genomic portfolio director
Crispr and other gene-editing technologies have taken off in Cognizant's version of the future, and startups are employing these technologies to turn out promising new medicines at incredible rates. A genomic portfolio director is the executive who will drive such a company, deciding what products need to be made and ensuring the firm keeps it foot on the gas pedal.
11. Man-machine teaming manager
When robots and people work together, someone is going to have to referee that partnership. Meet the man-machine teaming manager. "Man-machine collaboration is the new work force," declares Cognizant's fictional ad. That means companies will be on the hunt for "individuals who can help combine the strengths of robots/A.I. software (accuracy, endurance, computation, speed, etc.) with the strengths of humans (cognition, judgment, empathy, versatility, etc.) in a joint environment for common business goals."
The "ad" continues: "The key task for this role is developing an interaction system through which humans and machines mutually communicate their capabilities, goals, and intentions, and devising a task planning system for human-machine collaboration."
12. Financial wellness coach
If you thought keeping track of your finances was hard now, imagine how tricky it will be when cash is obsolete, bitcoin rules, and automated loans and micro-payments are commonplace. "The unspoken truth is that money leakage is abundant and omnipresent," writes Cognizant. "In the face of increasingly digital finance transactions, many banking customers are too time-crunched to fully understand fee structures and optimal approaches to financial management." The solution will be financial wellness coaches.
13. Digital tailor
Traditional crafts will never disappear, but most will get a digital update. Cognizant imagines an e-commerce site "looking for talented, fashion-friendly tailors, seamstresses, and designers to work with our customers in their homes to perfect the fit and finish of their e-commerce-ordered merchandise."
These tailors will use cutting-edge sensing cubicles to take customers' measurements, the clothes will then be produced, and finally the tailors will return to customers' homes for a final fitting and big reveal.
14. Chief trust officer
Cognizant thinks technology is about to add another officer to the C suite. "The days of Swiss bank accounts are now gone, and in their place we find blockchain-enabled currencies. More than ever, organizations need to explicitly prove their financial integrity when dealing with currencies that have been developed to avoid scrutiny," the report imagines.
Companies will need individuals with "the combined financial and regulatory acumen needed to deal in traditional and cryptocurrencies, with the PR expertise to maintain a positive public image that upholds our organization's financial and public integrity."
15. Quantum machine-learning analyst
The most tech-centric of all the jobs imagined by Cognizant, this one is suitable for only the most highly skilled applicants. "Individuals in this role research and develop next-generation solutions by integrating the disciplines of quantum information processing with machine learning," explains the job ad.
16. Virtual store sherpa
Here's a lower-tech option. Essentially the shop assistant of the future, a virtual store sherpa talks with customers about their needs in virtual reality, advises them on products, and then dispatches a robot to deliver whatever it is customers decide they need. "Think of yourself as a 'sommelier of hardware,'" urges the job ad for a fictional homeware giant, which states only a high school degree is required for this work-from-home gig.
17. Personal data broker
In the report, Cognizant imagines some sort of regulatory Big Bang that leads to a world where people actually own their own data and can sell it to interested firms for a profit. "As a personal data broker, you will ensure consumers (clients) receive revenue," from these sorts of sales, explains the fictitious job ad.
18. Personal memory curator
It's your call whether this imagined future job ad is creepy, kind, or a mixture of both: "Our organization is seeking a personal memory curator to provide a 'live well' solution for our aging customers by creating and delivering seamless virtual environments for them to inhabit ... The role requires consulting across a range of customer stakeholders, media, and historical sources to remake and architect past experiences to reduce the stress or anxiety that simple memory loss creates."
19. Augmented-reality journey builder
Requiring a combination of artistic flare and technical know-how, AR journey builders will help "design, write, create, calibrate, gamify, build, and -- most important -- personalize the next generation of mind-blowing stories and in-the-moment vignettes for our clients' trips in augmented reality." A degree from a film school is apparently a plus for this future career path.
20. Highway controller
It will take a few years, Cognizant believes, but within a decade cities will be seeking highway controllers "to assist in regulating road and airspace in the inner city" and "monitor, regulate, plan, and manipulate air and road space, monitoring and programming the automated A.I. platforms used for space management of autonomous cars and drones." Expect this role, like amped-up air traffic control, to include a hefty dose of stress.
21. Genetic diversity officer
In the future, those charged with fair hiring won't just keep track of the gender, race, and sexual orientation of an organization's people, but will also look at genetic diversity to "integrate a work force that includes workers who have been genetically enhanced (whether during gestation or later in life) with those who have not."