5 Jobs that might die out – and 5 on the Horizon
Live long enough, and you will see the rise and fall of countless trades. The washing machine got rid of the humble washerwoman, changes in lifestyle have all but vaporised the milkman, and the printing press put paid to the town crier.
Technological and cultural changes have upended the workplace many times, especially in the past century, and it will happen again and again. It’s bleak to think of the millions of people whose jobs will cease to exist, but the silver lining is that they may be replaced by more interesting, or at least safer jobs. Call centres now hire millions of people who would have been employed in spark-spitting factories, for instance.
This is a speculative list, of course. We can’t guarantee that all of these jobs will rise and fall, but these predictions are based on existing and looming trends.
We’ll start with the jobs in danger, before moving on to the possible jobs of the future…
Miner, Oil Rig Worker
Mining is already on the way out, thanks to a rise in renewable energies. This past year has been a tipping point in renewable energies, with major companies planning go 100% green (Wallmart, Google and Apple for a start), China making huge strides in renewables and the entire state of California planning on being 100% renewable by 2045.
Expect that trend to continue, as renewables get cheaper, fossil fuels fall out of favour and blue collar workers trade underground mines and sea rigs for wind farms, solar grid factories and other undiscovered workplaces.
Self-driving cars are a work in progress, with every automotive company throwing their hat in the ring to varying degrees. There are, in fact, self-driving vehicles on some public roads right now, as robot cars drive around Google’s California campus, beta vehicles travel in London and a city is being built in South Korea with self-driving cars in mind.
The first jobs to go will probably be in public transport, as low-speed people carriers are relatively low-risk (and already running in some cities). They will likely be followed by cargo vehicles like trucks and ships, and then, finally, everyday commuting cars.
Predictions for this new dawn in transport vary, but expect it to really take shape in 5-10 years and beyond. This, of course, will mean a huge reduction in positions for bus drivers, taxi drivers, truck drivers, train drivers and those in maritime industries.
Some media outlets are already automating report work, with data-based stories outsourced to robots. You might have already read stories written by bots on subjects like sports results and the stock market.
Other kinds of journalists, such as columnists, analysts and critics might survive, but that depends on whether people want to pay for such content, which is a big if…
It’s not just blue-collar jobs that are in danger – high-paid, high-pressure occupations are also potentially obsolete. Terrifyingly, a lot of the major stock trading that takes place these days is the work of robots. There are even bots that can be programmed to behave in certain reactive ways, such as the stock bot that buys or sells based on Donald Trump’s Tweets.
While machines can already parse and analyse huge swathes of information, people can read human behaviour much more accurately than computers can. So managers and certain analysts will still have jobs. But the fast-paced, reactive trading job is dying out.
Like some of the others on this list, this trade might not be decimated completely, but the technology already exists to do much of the work: In other words, consulting information, analysing precedent and providing council on simple matters.
Some of the other mental gymnastics, adjudicating and dealing with people will be outside the remit of computers (for now), so some legal jobs will survive.
New Jobs on the Horizon
And now for the good news. New jobs creep into the workplace all the time, and before we know it, our colleagues have titles like “community manager,” “content executive” and “app developer” (none of which existed ten years ago).
Expect that number to rise, as new tech, consumer and business demands and cultural mores shape our workplace, creating jobs like…
3D printing customer service, design, invention and marketing
3D printing is just getting going and its killer app hasn’t even materialised yet – the one invention that will make it a common household item. It has been used in incredible ways already though: So far 3D printing has given us bespoke casts, jet parts, prosthetic limbs, baby ultrasound models, houses, chocolate and even workable skin and bone.
The true benefits and market value of 3D printing haven’t been realised yet, but we will need people to design, service, invent and market these machines and the wonderful things they create. We’ll also need people to work on the dark side of 3D printing – legislating and creating safety features to deal with 3D printed weapons and contraband. (3D printed guns already exist, for instance.)
Drone Air Traffic Controller
One day, we’ll look up to the sky and it may not be clear and blue. It might be busy, possibly even gridlocked, with drones. Like 3D printing, drones are in their infancy, but companies like Amazon have big things in mind for these little fliers: If everything goes as planned, drones will be replacing the postal service, they’ll be delivering food (both takeaways and your shopping), and maybe even more.
Controlling the ebb and flow of these machines will be a requirement, and more and more drone pilots will be needed too. And we’re sure there are legislative, administrative and planning drone-related jobs that we haven’t even imagined yet.
VR Designer, Writer
Companies like Facebook, Samsung and Sony are plunging literally billions into Virtual Reality (VR), and we’re already seeing where that money is going: VR gaming is in homes right now, VR TV shows exist already, and tech companies hope that it will become more and more prominent.
Facebook want to bring you to the front row of gigs and sporting events, for a start. It’s also being used for less glamorous, but equally impressive purposes, like training scientists and pilots, showing you around furniture stores and homes for sale, and communication. Technologists, entrepreneurs and storytellers are beginning to explore its other possibilities.
With more VR sets and more users, there’ll definitely be increased demand for more content: Expect titles like “VR designer” to become more common, along with (possibly) VR writer, VR consultant and other jobs yet to be invented.
Internet of Things Analyst, Communicator, Customer Care
Our everyday devices are getting smarter, as smart fridges tell you when to restock food, smart cookers can be controlled with wifi and smart TVs can recommend shows to you. As our devices talk more to us (and one another), there will be a greater need to communicate with and manage them. Customer care is an all-but-inevitable industry that will grow from this trend, and there’ll be countless reams of data to analyse and sort through.
Robot Counsellor/AI Communicator
This one is the job that sounds the most outlandish (in fact, it’s already been the subject of some science fiction). But it could happen. As AI evolves and our bots’ needs become more complex, there might be a need for technicians who have both technical and psychological training. Of course, part of the appeal of a bot is that it doesn’t have human emotions and needs (such as workers’ rights!). That might change though if AI starts to evolve by itself. And if and when that happens, we’ll need people who can bridge the gap between human rationality and that of robots.