Jobs of the Future

ST.All's Well that Ends Well

See also, Paul KrugmanTyler, the NYTimes piece on lawyers rendered obsolete by computers and my earlier post In praise of impersonal medicine. What other jobs fall under these categories? (n.b. there are two jobs not rendered obsolete in the picture).


I wonder why aliens are so often depicted with what seem to be major blood vessels in prominient places on their heads. This one even appears to go throught the tip of the nose down to the chin. From an evolutionary point of view, that looks like a trait that would seriously reduce survival rates.

Which category: jobs that can not be outsourced or done by computer or jobs that can?

What kind of time frame: 10, 20 50, 100, 500 years?

Jobs that will be around in 20 years: athletes; entertainers; artists; plumbers and HVAC trades that repair and maintain existing installations; restaurant staff, including cooks and wait staff; automobile repair (body and mechanical); airline pilots; truck and bus drivers; trial lawyers; police and fire rescue; big money / high transaction value accountants, lawyers and financial advisors; "hand crafted" and "hand made" goods makers; child care, babysitters, and grade school teachers; oil field workers; and politicians.

Also, it's amazing just how many members of the Screen Actor's Guild are, in fact, humanoid.

Doctors will always be needed. From a public health perspective, it is fine to go by the numbers. But doctor's are paid to give individualized treatment, and symptoms between patients are highly variable. Not everyone's symptoms fit the textbook case of a certain condition, and it often takes a physician's intuition and experience to determine the correct diagnosis.

In order to treat a patient effectively, a doctor must build trust with the patient. Patients don't stay on their treatment regime if they don't trust you. So the human interaction is very important. I think this is part of the reason society pays doctors so well and gives them so much social status. Patients listen to the doctor, not to the nurse. The years of education a physician must go through and the prestige of the profession might be effective in increasing patient adherence to treatment.

Medicine's going to become more standardized with cost pressures. But I don't think there will be a time in the near future when physicians will be replaced.

I'm a medical school student, so I sure hope this is the case :)

James, I agree with you about doctors generally, but there is a great deal of marketing research being conducted on getting patients to stay on treatment regimes which do not require intervention by the doctor. They may require the internet, follow up telephone calls by a nurse, monitoring drug purchases as a proxy for use so one can detect non-compliance, etc. In fact, to the extent the patient self tests and report online they actually become more compliant than if they were to go to a testing lab or doctors office for a test. These are testable hypotheses about doctor trust, status and compliance, though.

You'll also probably get paid more for good diagnostics rather than follow up calls to the patient.

James, I take that back: you will not get compensated for follow up calls to the patient.

There is no DRG for patient compliance, but there are DRGs for procedures (non-compliance may have its own reward!).

There is no DRG for outcomes, either, so don't expect a reward for your status or effort at compliance which lead to better outcomes.

I don't know if you get compensated for confering with the patient about end of life wishes, but if you do, you might be able to squeeze some compliance discussion into that space. You might have to email Sen. Grassleys office for information on that, though, to find out if that is OK.

As someone said above, it depends on the timescale. A couple of interesting questions to me are: what will be the /last/ human jobs in the interim between last major wave of job automations and a basically fully roboticized society, and which jobs are likely to survive from now until that point?

1) Software developers - until societies are fully roboticized/automated, devs will be needed to program, fix bugs, etc. Once AI is good enough, we'll have programs writing other programs.

2) Systems and database administrators - we'll need people to create, update, and maintain the systems that record data generated by our robots and programs for performance/task tuning, efficiency improvements, bug hunting purposes, security anomaly detection, and good old effectiveness. We'll also need admins to oversee these systems generally to make sure nothing has wrong amok. Excellent AI will make them obsolete too.

3) Robot maintenance engineers. Robots will break down, need replacement, etc. This job may not make it all the way to the end, but it might make it most of the way there. Probably the easiest of this list to replace.

4) High-level decision makers and "output checkers". Politicians, business managers/executives, military/police commanders, and scientists (robots may be doing all the fieldwork, however.) Output checkers would be people who are experts in their field who verify that the robot's/program's work is what's expected.

All of the above require fairly good AI to replace (fairly intelligent adult human level at least - number 4 will likely wait until we have superhuman FAI.) Pretty much all other jobs do not require adult human AI; they'll be replaced with "dumb" automated systems with some human overseers and robots with child-level intelligence. Really, how many jobs in our societies could be done (in terms of intellectual capacity/processing power) by eight year olds?

Have bank tellers been displaced by ATM's? Have grocery store clerks been displaced by self-service checkout? Have secretaries been displaced by self-word processing? Have appliance repairmen been replaced by more reliable appliances?

Yes they have. Not all of them, obviously, but a lot of them.

Has mapmaking been replaced by Google Maps?

To a significant degree, yes. Maps are automatically generated from data sets and automatically updated when the data is updated.

Have library clerks been replaced by self-checkout?

No -- librarians are gradually being replaced by search engines and electronic access (at the university level) and by ebooks and internet used-book sales.

Another thing:

we're going to need to do some more serious big thinking about more than "work", which is too narrow now. We need to figure how how we're going to "occupy" people in the transition from post-industrial/service/information technology society to a roboticized, post-scarcity, arts and leisure society. If handled poorly, "social unrest", mass protests, and outright violence may be become a regular part of the landscape, what with millions of always-idle, impoverished people just sitting on the sidelines, ignored. How long could this last? One hundred years, perhaps? That's a long time to have constant social upheaval.

Sci-fi has dystopias full of rebellious robots, human vs. robot warfare, grappling with what it means to be sentient, etc. but have startlingly little that deals with a much more realistic question: what does a society where human labor is being made redundant look like in terms of day-to-day human behavior?

Just wait until 'Watson' replaces bloggers.....

If you actually understand the law article then you will see this as a high-tech arms race that will probably have little effect on the number of lawsuit or lawyers. If anything, it pushes up the number of lawsuits.

Starship Captains replaced? Maybe for adminstrivia, shipboard operations, emergency control, and tactical courses of actions. But humans will always be in the decision loop for military purposes to some extent. Too much skynet-phobia.

There's the barber, the captain, two actors,and lurking not far off camera a makeup guy (non-gender-specific) and a screenwriter borrowing from shakespeare. there's the guy who does the captions.
starships will probably be operated by nanobots to reduce mass, and haircutting could be automated. but star trek is allegory.

now i need to delete my second comment; autor is covered in the next post, which google and i had missed.

Autor's division of tasks that can be automated (routine; manual or analytical) and those which are difficult to automate (non-routine; manual or analytical.)

Barber is a non-routine, manual task difficult to automate. Starship captain is a non-routine, analytical task difficult to automate. Hence, Star Trek has it correct, these are the jobs of the future. where you gonna get your paycheck from when there ain't no human jobs left?

Maybe you can get a basic haircut by machine, but it would take a true AI do do a good styling job. No, I don't think the hairdresser will go away any time soon.

You guys seriously think that the role of the barber is to cut hair?


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