Upcoming cultural and technological shifts could lead to a host of new job titles. Here’s what you could see on business cards.
5 min read
Over the next 25 years, you could see titles including “autonomous vehicle pilot,” “AI ethicist” and “space habitat designer” pop up on business cards — or whatever virtual reality equivalent may supersede those cardstock rectangles. Advancements in artificial intelligence (AI), gene editing and space technology are already beginning to shift current industries as we know them.
As for the most valuable skills over the next two-and-a-half decades? People who are autodidactic (motivated to self-learn) and polymaths (able to learn and master multiple subject matters) will likely be in high demand, says Julie Friedman Steele, CEO and board chair of the World Future Society. Companies will also likely look to hire “visionary executors,” or people who are both able to think divergently and to turn those thoughts into action.
“We’ve been thinking in very short increments, and that’s not as fun as what could be,” Steele says. She says she believes the idea of “jobs” will translate to a longer-term view beyond our own lifespans and shift toward the question, “What is it we want … to co-create together for the future?”
Here are eight job titles that could pop up on resumes before the year 2043.
1. Autonomous vehicle pilot
Oxymoronic? Maybe. But it’s likely that over the next 10 years or so, autonomous vehicles and car operations won’t be advanced enough to operate fully independently without any oversight. Individuals seated at consoles in some sort of “control room” would likely pilot multiple vehicles at one time, meaning they’d keep track of progress, respond in cases of trouble and potentially guide them on the last mile or two of their trip. This could be similar to when a ship enters a harbor and a pilot steers it during the last moments before docking, says Glen Hiemstra, founder of Futurist.com. In the very long run, these positions might disappear when AI and vehicle experience supersede the need for oversight.
2. Car companion for autonomous driving
Driving is all about staying focused and keeping your eyes on the road. But after the full integration of self-driving cars, transport will mean an excessive amount of downtime. People could use the time to work or scroll through social media, but over the long-term, it’s likely that human interaction will be missed, meaning “car companions” to chat with could be a feasible job offering, says Sheryl Connelly, Ford Motor Company’s futurist. In the same vein and to save on time and efficiency, we could see a market for health calls or even tutors on wheels.
Related: Self-Driving Uber Vehicle Fatally Strikes Pedestrian in Arizona
3. AI ethicist
One of the most difficult parts of building an AI tool is programming its higher logic or decision-making — in fact, that’s likely what went wrong in the fatal crash involving a self-driving Uber vehicle. But it’s not just about correct code. Some individuals will need to be in charge of how AI tools will make a host of different decisions and what will happen when they’re presented with a complicated choice. These positions currently exist at basic levels, but they’ll likely evolve into more expansive roles — perhaps even called AI ethics designers, says Hiemstra.
4. Cultural preservationist
As the world becomes an even greater melting pot and cultures continue to be blended, some people will likely serve as official archivists to preserve a culture’s origins and history, Connelly says. This could look like a blend of historian, researcher and museum curator.
5. Human trait designer
Gene editing is getting more and more precise. In fact, CRISPR — a tool on the forefront of gene editing technology — has recently inspired a new platform that allows researchers to make even more precise changes in target DNA. Advances in this kind of technology keep coming, and it’s likely that human trait designers — or experts in making specific changes to human DNA — aren’t far behind. This could happen in vitro or in early life to enhance or eliminate different characteristics, Hiemstra says, potentially even for aspects of appearance including eye color and height.
Related: 4 Ways to Hack Your Genetics to Improve Your Body and Mind
6. Rotating elderly companions
Caretakers for the elderly already exist, but as the human lifespan increases, the market for companions will likely grow and change significantly. Cognitive research suggests that engagement with unfamiliar individuals helps keep the brain sharp, Connelly says. It stands to reason that in the future, companions will rotate out to provide different daily or weekly stimuli for elderly individuals. And if society moves closer to adopting digital avatars, those might take up the torch here, changing in appearance, tone of voice and accent to change up interactions with the elderly.
7. Space habitat designer
Jeff Bezos is currently pouring $1 billion of his money into funding his aerospace company Blue Origin, and he foresees a trillion people living in space. If that’s indeed part of the future of humanity, there will be a need for people who can design those living spaces, Hiemstra says, and they’ll explore questions such as how to build habitats for people in space, what they should be composed of and how to transport the necessary materials.
8. Space community development planner
SpaceX, with Elon Musk at its helm, is planning for entire cities and self-sustaining civilizations on other planets — namely Mars. The company plans to send a cargo mission to Mars in 2022 to confirm water resources and gauge conditions for initial power, mining and life support infrastructure. Similar to city planners on Earth, a need for space community development planners will likely emerge, Hiemstra says. We’re not just talking architecture, but also areas like real estate development, recreation facilities, food storage and the ratio of individuals to different resources.