There are so many articles out there where futurists and education pundits are invited to share their thoughts on what will be the jobs of the future. There are so many reports and articles that state that we need to prepare young people for a future in which most of the jobs haven’t yet been imagined, and yet which also state what the necessary skills will be.
To be fair, the necessary skills usually cited are generic enough to be valid in any situation, including creativity, collaboration, critical thinking, multimodal communication and empathy. What tends to be missing are ‘harder’ or more precise skills that relate to a changing environment and the technologies we are producing in response.
Also missing from these predictions is the use of multiple scenarios thinking that is helpful when looking to the future. I thought I would have a go at a matrix, with four scenarios, to map some future jobs. Some of these roles have been written about before (e.g. de-extinction technician, drone operator), some of them already exist (e.g. refugee support worker, geriatric nurse). Most of them are ‘off the top of my head’. You could add your own jobs to the scenarios. The main point was to identify the four scenarios, which are:
Realistic and Proactive: A future in which we have made a global commitment to tackle the breached environmental boundaries, there are enough Governments led by systematic and empathic thinkers to avoid the very worst case catastrophic climate change that we’re currently headed toward. This list of jobs realistically focuses on the most common roles that people will have to take in order to maintain a balanced and thriving environment to enable human survival. Artists might need to refocus on regenerating the environment and helping people cope with the challenges of an uncertain life with fewer resources available.
Realistic and Reactive: In this future, we have not made enough effort, quickly enough, to reduce the impacts of climate change and the other breached environmental boundaries. This list of jobs realistically focuses on the most common roles people will have to play in order to support their communities and countries through natural disasters and conflicts. There might be little need for artists in this scenario, except to capture stories and protect heritage.
Idealistic and Reactive: In this future, we have not thought and acted systematically enough to manage all the risks of a technocentric world. In imagining this future, we focus less on the geophysical factors such as climate change, and focus on the risks of runaway technological capacity. The most common jobs might be dealing with those risks and trying to optimise life using technology. The role for artists might be creating virtual worlds in which we can escape but also simulate ways of enhancing technology without being controlled by it.
Idealistic and Proactive: This is the most common future envisaged. In this future, we have made enough effort to enable the continuity of civilisation despite environmental threats. The exponential advances of technology are enabling people to control their environments in ever finer ways and to live longer. The role of artists would include serving needs at the top of Maslow’s hierarchy, for self-actualisation. Much of this service might take place within Virtual Reality experiences, but equally there could be an appetite for authentic and wild stories and environments.