While some jobs will become extinct, a host of others will be created in their wake.
The rise of the robots doesn't necessarily spell doom and gloom. Image: Steve Jurvetson/Flickr
The robots might pinch our jobs, but when they do, futurists want to let us know that there could be a whole host of positions still left for Homo sapiens to fill.
According to a new report published by Australian science agency the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO), if policymakers and governments can prepare ahead and implement the correct safety nets for workers, it'll mean that while some jobs might be headed for extinction, others will be created in their wake.
Those with the right qualifications could be working in everything from "decision support analysis" to "online chaperones". Others will be actively creating their own jobs as entrepreneurs, or working for multiple employees as freelancers in an altogether more flexible labour market.
So what do these jobs entail, and how have changing socio-economic conditions given rise to them?
There are currently 3.2 billion of us online, and as we tap away at our respective mobile devices, we're creating epic amounts of data. As governments, businesses, and healthcare systems generate even more Big Data alongside us, societies will need a roster of data analysts that can help sort through all the excess information.
These information processing boffins will have had special training in "machine learning, automation, cybersecurity, encryption and distributed (cloud based) systems." Yet, as industries beyond the IT sector will be prone to producing big data sets, we'll also be seeing the rise of data analysts who have expertise in spotting trends related to the "health, transport, urban design, and retail" sectors.
"Online chaperones" will be like the bodyguards to our digital identities—shielding both individuals and small businesses from identity theft and online harassment.
Working alongside the data analysts are the "decision support analysts." The logic here is that our globally connected online economy will be generating so much data that we'll also be confronted with an increasing amount of choice. The decision support analysts will act a bit like the therapists of the Big Data movement, helping decision makers overcome "analysis paralysis," and make sense and effective decisions out of the traumatic swathes of information that they'll be hit with.
As transport systems become more sophisticated, remote-controlled vehicle operators will operate airplanes, buses, and helicopters from the comfort of safe, land-based hubs. They will no longer need to be physically present in their vehicles, but instead will teleoperate them. These workers will be trained in the "theory" of flight or driving, and will know how to adapt to changing weather conditions by adjusting their vehicle-operating joysticks.
Next up are the tribe of empathetic workers with expert customer-facing people skills. In some scenarios, "personal healthcare" experts offering advice on how to avoid chronic and diet-related illnesses will be piggybacking on the health conscious movement of people. Meanwhile, "online chaperones" will be like the bodyguards to our digital identities—shielding both individuals and small businesses from identity theft and online harassment.
Ultimately, the robots might be coming, but if government decision-makers can get their act together in time it might not all be gloom and doom.
Lastly, while e-commerce brings our shopping experiences online, and digital art and 3D conservation projects bring galleries and museums onto the web, there will be a special tribe of people making sure we don't lose interest in the physical world.
These "chief experience officers" and "customer officers" will be tasked with re-enchanting our interactions with the real world, or in some cases mashing up real and virtual world experiences. They'll be the "creative, imaginative and perceptive" ones who'll be reshaping how we perceive a regular visit to shopping center, supermarket, library, or museum, so we associate the experience with learning and entertainment. Imagine, for example, an augmented reality chef popping out at your behest as you pick up an Italian pasta recipe.
Ultimately, the robots might be coming, but if government decision-makers can get their act together in time it might not all be gloom and doom. Notably, their attention will have to focus on investing in adequate education and retraining programmes so that human workers of the future can be fully equipped to deal with the rise of the machines.