Careers of the future

According to the IFTF, the majority of careers of the future have not yet been invented in 2023. One thing which we have learned from recent history, is that there is no point in fighting to freeze time and prevent change and progress. The industrial revolution of the late eighteenth to the mid- nineteenth century was the first wave of disruption to the status quo, and in spite of the efforts of the Luddites, mechanization changed the agricultural and industrial landscape and many people found their jobs disappearing as machines took a main role in the production process.

Larger landholding replaced strip-farming where combine harvesters took over from a man and his scythe, while water and wind replaced men and animals in powering the newly emerging industries and factories which took over from cottage industries and craftsmen. The world changed over eighty years and social, political and economic relationships changed with it. No one could have imagined the future of work in 1700, and we are in a similar position today – although there are clues to what careers are likely to be future-proof.

When it comes to careers in the future, there is a school of thought which argues that we are on the brink of the next revolution – a technological one. Therefore, robots will take everyone’s jobs and AI will eventually wipe out the human race. From this perspective, the only career of the future is one which services our future masters! This is, however, a narrow view, and not an accurate one, since the recent development of ChatGPT and Google’s Bard have highlighted a series of drawbacks associated with total computer-dependency.

Chat GPT, Bard et al. – what are they and will they take our jobs in the future?

ChatGPT is an open-source chatbot, powered by AI, which generates natural language and uses input to create human-like text. Consequently, in theory it can answer questions, write marketing scripts and sermons, poems, sonnets, essays, code, forms, theses, reports etc. But, and it is a BIG but, Chat GPT uses an enormous database of text which is already available on the internet, and is consequently out of date since the data goes back to 2021. The bot cannot browse the internet, and neither can it be creative or devise new ideas. So there it is essentially regurgitating what people could already find, yet far more quickly.

Many experts predicted that ChatGPT would be the death of Google as a search engine, given its recent collaborative agreement with Microsoft, and Google responded by creating its own AI service, Bard. Bard has recently lost the company $100 billion when, on its trial run, it gave an incorrect answer to one of the test questions used in its Twitter promotional video. AI powered chatbots have their flaws.
Humans are also fighting back. A number of school districts in the US have banned it, for fear students will use it to write their essays, and a number of ChatGPT plagiarism checkers are already in development.

In addition, ChatGPT has been found to make up facts to support its arguments, to invent references and give nonsensical answers, all of which will undermine user trust in the chatbot. Many users complain that the answers are simply wrong, that there is a “woke” bias and agenda built into the bot and content is vulnerable to censorship at developer level.

Tay bot experiment

Microsoft’s original bot, called Tay was released in 2016. It went rogue and started spewing out
controversial tweets, based on the conversational data it was being fed. Tay thus became misogynistic, racist, tweeted that  “We’re going to build a wall and Mexico will pay for it”, referred to feminism as a “cult” and stated “I support genocide, the Mexican kind” etc. This caused Microsoft to have a panic attack and shut Tay down within hours of its launch. Anyway it is a salutary lesson in the truth of the old saying “garbage in, garbage out” and raises many questions about the future of AI-powered bots.

So, while, at first glance, these AI bots could replace teachers, novelists, playwrights, lecturers, bloggers, journalists, political analysts, researchers, etc., in practice this will not happen, because all these careers are dependent on a human element, flashes of inspiration, empathy and flexibility. Obviously, the bots posess none of that, as anyone who has tried to sort out a problem online with a chatbot can testify.
However, there are jobs which are threatened by the rise of the chatbot, namely:

  • Telesales
  • Customer service
  • Diagnostics
  • Scriptwriting
  • Translation
  • Research assistants
  • Pamphlets, legal and promotional documents and any form of informative writing
  • Accountants
  • Stock traders
  • Data entry administrators

Careers of the future – the robots are coming!

What are robots?
When we think robots, most of us immediately see a cute Star Wars figure, but there are five
different types of robots, and not all of them are cuddly.
1. Augmenting robots – for example the exoskeleton mentioned below.
2. Pre-programmed robots – who repeat one motion, for example putting a lid on a jar on an assembly line.
3. Autonomous robots – which act independently of a human controller, for example killer robots and vacuum cleaners.
4. Teleoperated robots – which are under human control. For example, bedridden patients operate robots remotely at the famous Avatar Robot Café in Tokyo.
5. Humanoid robots – built to have the same body as a human being, often used in various types of research.

Who are the robots - Kim są roboty

Robots do not have an independent existence.

We have all seen Roomba robotic vacuum cleaners, which quietly zip around the house, gathering dirt from our carpets – or, alternatively, picking up the excrement from the cat litter box and methodically rubbing it into every carpeted area of our home (a true story). In short, robots do not think or differentiate because they are machines, programmed to carry out specific tasks.

Robots and healthcare

In Japan and South Korea, where a low birth rate and spiralling ageing population have led to enormous staff shortages in the healthcare sector, robots are playing an increasing role in nursing homes and supporting independent living. There is Paro, the fuzzy talking seal bot, who keeps dementia patients company; the telenoid robot who can be used remotely by staff, who sing or talk through his voice piece. It reminds patients to take their medicine and encourages basic chat of the how-are-you today variety.

The average care home worker’s salary in Japan is only $1,000 dollars more than the cost of a robot, who is capable of simple tasks such as fetching things, reminding patients to eat and providing nurses and doctors with remote access. It has been found that robots which have wheels, like Pepper or Buddy, can run games sessions for older residents, and that the latter benefit from better mental health and feel less lonely.

In addition, robotic exoskeletons are already being used to help nurses with lifting, while medical robots take part in robot-assisted surgery, and robotic prostheses have long been under development, to help individuals control their limbs with their brains or to respond to stimuli physically. One of the reasons Asian countries are investing heavily in robots stems from their strict immigration regulations, which prevent immigrants from filling vacancies in healthcare, as well as the traditional lack of interest in building a career in the industry. The integration of robots has had a positive impact on recruitment and more young people are now applying for posts in care homes.

Robots in other career industries

Robots are not confined to hospitals or clinics. They work on car, manufacturing and electronics assembly lines, and on a multitude of repetitive tasks involved in production processes.
In addition, they are used in dangerous environments humans cannot tolerate, because of toxicity, extreme temperatures or unstable structures. Robots teach languages in schools and act as waiters and security guards, as couriers, market research analysts, proofreaders, receptionists and are gradually replacing men and women in the
armed forces. Nevertheless, there are many career paths which robots will not be able to pursue, including becoming:

  • Lawyers
  • Scientists
  • Psychiatrists and counsellors
  • Psychologists
  • PR
  • HR
  • Graphic designers
  • Project manager
  • Software developer
  • CEOs
  • Engineers
  • Vets
  • Tradespeople – e.g. plumbers, electricians and mechanics
  • Stylists
  • Artisans
  • User experience designer
  • Sports therapist
  • Mental health and care workers
  • Nurses and doctors etc.

The unifying factors in future-proof careers can be summarised as:

  • Using emotional intelligence
  • Creativity
  • Empathy
  • Intuition and vision
  • Dispute resolution/human management skills
  • Artistic and design talents
  • Entrepreneurial spirit

In short, wherever the human touch is needed, or where imagination and personal creativity is key to success, robots will not find a niche. Humans will therefore still have these career options in the future.
Similarly, if you are thinking of a professional career path and want to become a fireman or a dentist, a forensic scientist or engineer, anthropologist or archaeologist, forester or audiologist – you job is future-proof, because no machine will be able to combine the knowledge and the skills needed in these fields.

Careers of the future – who is vulnerable to being replaced by technological innovation?

Any work which can be automated, in order to be more productive, is at risk of being replaced by technology.
ATMs and self-scanners are already replacing cashiers and bank tellers, fast food cooks (but not chefs) will soon give way to machines which dispense orders you have typed into a screen; drones will deliver medicines and food; and the advent of the self-driving smart vehicle heralds thenend for taxi drivers and train drivers. The milkman is already consigned to history and will soon be followed by travel agents, warehouse workers and waiters. Low-end jobs are therefore most vulnerable to extinction and professionals are least likely to find themselves out of work.

Careers of the future – how to join the technological movement for change

The old saying “If you can’t beat them, join them” applies in the area of careers as well as anywhere
Big data needs big data analysts; blockchain developers are already in great demand; data brokers and machine learning developers. The cloud engineers, cybersecurity specialists and robotics engineers are being wooed by multinationals. Renewable energy is another expanding field, and there will be work aplenty for drone pilots, AR developers and financial managers. Supply chain management is a growing sector and product designers and engineers will not be out of work in the future.

Careers of the future – can we trust new technology?

This is difficult to answer, because our creations, AI and robots, have a history of kicking over the traces. We have already looked at the case of Tay, the foul-mouthed chatbot, and even widely used Alexa has been known to spontaneously start blaring out music in an empty house at 1.50 in the morning. Thus, resulting in the police arrival and having to break down the door to stop what they thought was a party.

China created “Little Fatty”, a robot whos job was to sing songs, teach children and act as a butler – but who attacked the children when first launched at a tech show.
Japan’s Todai Robot, part of an AI project, to demonstrate that a machine which does not understand exam questions can still get into the University of Tokyo – and failed the entrance exams two years in a row. However, it did score in the top 20 per cent of all applicants, thus sending out a mixed message…

The British grocery delivery service, Ocado, lost an entire warehouse recently, when its robots, who were tasked with collecting the items clients had ordered and bagging them, had what the newspapers called “ a fight”. The result was a huge fire, costing the company £35 million in lost revenue.

On a slightly different note, in 2015 a drunk customer attacked his humanoid robot sales assistant, Pepper, in a mobile phone shop in Japan. Also, Hitchbot, a humanoid robot who relied on people’s kindness, was vandalized “to death”. The issue of trust is one where the jury is still out.

Careers of the future – a summary

Yes, the robots are coming, and AI and AR technology is blurring the line between man and machine, but this line still exists and will continue to differentiate between the human and the mechanical in the future. Advocates of new technology argue that it plays a complementary role in the workplace, and that decision-making is not part of its remit. Thus, new technology can be used to calculate how much concrete will be needed to build a block of flats. Still it is the human engineer and designer who will draw up the plans and execute them, taking into account community needs, demographics and, for want of a better word – style.
If you are planning to study at university, you are not intending to build a career out of becoming a nail bar worker or a bartender, so your future career is more likely to be safe and worth pursuing. Similarly, a dentist and vet will always have clients, while a bus driver may well find themselves unemployed in 20 years’ time – as long as Tesla and their ilk manage to overcome self-driving vehicles’ tendencies to knock down pedestrians.
A career is not the same as a job. So do not worry about the future, but see these new
developments as something you can use and exploit, to further your own interests and ambitions, rather than the end of the world as we know it…