The future job market will be radically different—almost alien—to what we have now. There are a waves of forces that will significantly change the way we work and the type of jobs we hold. The rapid ascension of sophisticated technology, global connectedness and a confluence of other factors will make the workforce of the future almost unrecognizable.
The South by Southwest festival (SXSW), in addition to its music and film, is also a home for smart, distinguished people to come together and discuss important issues. This year, one of the panels will include talks about job design and the future of work and will offer a follow-up piece about their conclusions.
Naturally, this got me thinking about my view of the future regarding the job market. My analyses can be broken down into several fast-growing trends.These trends include artificial intelligence, robotics, technology, an aging population, globalization, college, politics and the environment.
Artificial intelligence, robotics and technology of every sort will displace millions of workers. It is happening now, as artificial intelligence (AI) is used by investment banks, law and accounting firms, hospitals and corporations to displace lower-end white-collar jobs. This is just the beginning. If your job can be replaced by AI, it will—and you’ll need a new career.
All types of habitual white collar office jobs will be easily slashed in favor of technology. Doctors won’t be spared, as sophisticated robotics will take away some of the surgeons’ operating responsibilities. An older doctor with shaky hands will be dispensed with and replaced by a robot that does not need breaks or sleep. Reading x-rays to detect cancerous cells and other diseases will be viewed by AI that could spot things much better than the human eye.
Blue-collar workers, such as truck and cab drivers, cashiers, retail sales associates and people who work in factories or in manufacturing plants, will be replaced by robotics and technology. Driverless vehicles, kiosks in fast food restaurants and self-help quick-phone scans at stores will eliminate minimum wage and low-skilled jobs.
This, of course, will be a boom for coders and computer engineers. They will be the great beneficiary of this trend—until AI can learn to code as well as or better than the humans.
Frustrated with the real world, computer scientists and engineers will build new augmented realities for people. New simulations will be created where people who feel left out of the real world can enjoy some dignity and respect. Elon Musk and others have previously questioned publicly if we live in a simulation; programmers may take the next step and actually create simulations that evolve into real worlds.
An aging population will create value in certain jobs and cause severe problems for others.
With advancements in medicine, better living conditions, along with a more informed public about nutrition, exercise and diets, people will live much longer. Those who care for the elderly and seniors in all facets of their lives will greatly benefit. General practitioner and age-related specialist doctors, nurses, financial advisors, hospices, old-age homes, physical therapists and surgical enhancement specialists will thrive as the aging will be in dire need of their services.
Since people will live to their 90s and beyond, people will be forced to work longer into their late 70s. Many will be healthy enough, but most need the income. In the past, when social security was enacted, the average lifespan was in the mid 60s. A person would retire, collect a small pension and supplement it with social security. Now, there are almost no company pensions. Furthermore, there is no way that there will be sufficient social security funds to support the massive aging population
This will put stress on younger people to pay for their older population through higher taxes. They’ll also have to foot the bill for the Baby Boomers and older generation, as it relates to higher insurance costs. Since the older generation won’t leave the workforce voluntarily, there will be less chances for the younger employees to advance up the corporate ladder as the good seats are already taken.
Forget about plastic surgery. There will be a big need for designer limbs and body parts for senior citizens who can afford them. There will be a brisk business in the restoration of plastic surgery performed on people in their 20s and 30s and now in their 70s and 80s.
The ability to move people and jobs globally will have a major impact.
It will be increasingly tougher for the United States to compete as the rest of the world catches up to us. As great of a country we are, we don’t have a monopoly on smart people. China has 1.4 billion people—India 1.3 billion. If only a small percentage of them have the Jeff Bezos, Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates-type of genius, these and other countries will have an educated population that will compete intensely against us and our companies.
The trend has been for companies to relocate jobs to the cheapest locations. It starts with moving from a costly city like New York City to a lower-cost state. Then, the jobs go to India and will be ultimately moved around to where the corporations could find the cheapest labor that can’t yet be done by computers. The migration will keep shuffling people to the lowest-cost places around the world.
Education and ideas about careers will change.
College tuition costs can’t keep getting higher from where they are now; otherwise, only the very rich and the poor could attend. Wealthy parents can pay and the poor will receive government aid. The middle class will be squeezed out or have to endure unbearable tuition costs for the rest of their lives.
More kids will go into trades (the ones where robots can’t do the work), as opposed to college and white-collar jobs. They’ll look at the older generation carrying hundreds of thousands of debt that can’t be paid off, working at a low-end job that didn’t really require a college degree and forced—due to economics—to delay getting married, buying a home and having children. There will be a generations who looks at that dire future and opt out.
To deal with the decrease in enrollment, universities will offer online courses where only the best professors will teach hundreds of thousands of people at the same time on YouTube (or UniversityTube or whatever platform is in vogue at the time). There will be no need for tenured and poorly performing professors. Students will answer questions on apps that will be graded by AI.
You will have many different careers in your lifetime due to the rapid-shifting work landscape.
Students who majored in non-marketable liberal arts, which are not useful in the business world, will have incredible trouble starting and building a career. People will be left destitute, paying off college and graduate school loans since their jobs can’t afford the bills.
The gig economy will become the standard for most people. Why would corporations maintain expensive corporate offices, pay benefits and bear the burden of employees when they can just pick people—who will work remotely—for specific assignments and then part ways when the work is done?
If you have a standardized job, there will be no pricing power because that position can be given to someone else cheaper anywhere in the world—or the company could easily train someone new. You will need specialized skills that are not easy to learn or replicate.
Politics and environment change the job market.
There is a good likelihood that the U.S. will tilt toward a hybrid type of socialism. Universal Basic Income will be instituted. UBI is a system in which people are given, by the government via taxpayers, a certain monthly income to help them live and get by. When millions of working-age people are displaced by robots and technology and too old to learn new skills, UBI will be demanded by the forsaken workers. The top .001% will also call for this to avoid civil unrest and possible anarchy, revolts and violent uprisings.
Crime will considerably increase as there will be millions of people left idle and not working. Even though they will receive UBI, it won’t be sufficient. Plus, having too much time on one’s hands can lead to drinking, drugs and bad decision making. As a result, there will be a pressing need for more police officers and security personnel to keep the peace.
There will be an even greater wealth disparity between the extremely rich and those who receive UBI government payouts. We will be a modern-day, medieval and feudalistic society where the top .001% will live in fortified mansions walled off from the workers and those collecting government subsidies. The 1% of top tax accountants, estate and trust attorneys and investment professionals will do okay for themselves serving the uber-wealthy elites.
As we pollute and destroy the earth, there will be great needs for scientists and engineers to design ways to colonize other planets and build the means to get there and build a habitable community. Scientists and engineers will be gainfully employed to clean up pollution and deal with all of our waste. They will engineer ways to change weather patterns in our favor.
The bottom line is that if you have the abilities, focus on science, technology, engineering and mathematics, computer-coding-related careers. If you don’t have right-brain dominance, find a skill or profession that cannot be replaced by technology, easily taught to a younger replacement or shipped to another country.