47 Futuristic Jobs You Were Supposed To Have By Now
Earlier this week, the Lt. Governor of California, Gavin Newsom, said that in the future, "65% of grade school kids are going to have a job that hasn’t been invented yet.” If the past has taught us anything, though, it's that most yet-to-be-invented jobs will never actually exist.
While it sounds like one of those made-up statistics, Newsom's estimate actually comes from a 2011 book about brain science by Cathy Davidson. She contends that we should be teaching our children using radically different methods so that they can compete in a bold new job market, one that's just over the horizon and filled with futuristic-sounding work. While she may have a point, predicting what jobs will be common 20 years hence is quite the guessing game. And it's one we've been playing—poorly—for decades.
The 1982 book The Omni Future Almanac took a stab at what the job market of the future might look like. The book has a handful of predictions for jobs that were rare in 1982 and actually fairly common today, like "copyright law analyst" and "computer games programmer." But for the most part, the jobs are simply a reflection of ideas that people of the 1980s had about the future. While cryogenics lab assistant is certainly a job that exists, they're not nearly as common as they were predicted to be. Nor are there many holograph designers here in the year 2013. Or space geographers.
Below is a sampling of 47 jobs that we were supposed to have by now, many of which are, of course, open to interpretation. A "microwave marketer"? Were they referring to someone who markets microwave ovens? Frankly, your guess is as good as mine.
Cryogenics laboratory assistant
Laser beam operator
Artificial intelligence scientist
Genetic engineering salesperson
Space traffic control officer
Clone doctor and clone nurse
Automatic factory security
Organic computer engineer
Hybrid airship operator
Silicon mining expert
Fiber optics technician
Voice-activated computer repairperson
Computer museum director
Technology transfer monitor
Software coding experts
Charged-couple device technician
Space shuttle repairperson
Magnetic train developer
Industry control center technician
Automatic drafting programmer
Video systems engineer
Computer art specialist
Automatic tunneling expert
Organ replacement surgeon
Sonar applications salesperson
Bullet train manager
Materials recycling technician
Speech compression technology engineer
If you strip away their specificity, some of the jobs in the book are certainly part of other occupations: Voice-activated computer repairperson, for instance. Siri-repair person isn't exactly a job, but that's only because Apple Genius encompasses so much more.
As we all know, prediction is a tough business. But it's a business made easier by the fact that no one is likely to call you incorrect for decades, if ever. But our goal when examining predictions like these shouldn't be to ridicule the prognosticators of yesteryear, or even call them incorrect. Our goal should be to simply explore these predictions with the benefit of hindsight and do our best to learn from them. Being able to predict whether a particular job will exist in the future is incredibly useful for people (young and old) who are trying to plan their lives.
It's worth remembering, though, that our predictions have real-world consequences. If you tell a generation of kids that there will be huge demand for 3D-printing experts and virtual-reality headset designers, that will influence the decisions that they make. And while it may have seemed like a given in 1982 that the world would need a lot more holograph designers, you'd be hard pressed to make that case here, 30 years into the future.
Image: Scanned from the 1982 book World of Tomorrow: Health and Medicine by Neil Ardley
This article originally appeared at Gizmodo.