by Roger Bourke White Jr., copyright December 2014
As cyber takes over Big Business manufacturing and service functions, people will be liberated from the Industrial and Agriculture Age drudgery jobs and free to take on many other kinds of jobs. What they will most often choose are jobs they are passionate for.
The surprise here is what kinds of jobs get selected. Jobs of passion are essentially jobs that entertain the person doing them. Because they are entertainment jobs, they will structure themselves in similar ways to other forms of entertainment.
This means we are going to see... wait for it... A Top 40 Jobs List!
The Top 40 phenomenon was first noticed when radio stations started playing a lot of popular music in the 1950's. What the station owners noticed was that while there were hundreds of songs available, the listeners wanted to hear just a few, and hear them over and over again. What evolved was Top 40 radio.
A 2010's example of this happening is in movies. Thanks to the rapidly declining costs of movie making and displaying, a lot more people can make movies than could in the past, and a lot more movies can be made. In spite of this growing potential for wide variety, the popular offerings remain quite limited in scope -- sequels, prequels and "franchises" remain very popular.
I predict that this same Top 40 mentality will be structuring what jobs are popular in 2050 -- there will be lots of potential variety, but it won't be taken advantage of. Most people will pick just a few kinds of jobs to be passionate about, and they will do them over and over. Very much related will be lifestyle choices. I will talk about them first.
Lifestyles and job choices are interrelated. People will choose their lifestyle first, then pick a job which is compatible. Here are some ideas on what the Top 40 Lifestyles will be. Much of humanity will live in variants of one of the following lifestyles:
o The Dilettante. Many people will vigorously pursue one or a handful of activities and get very good at them. This is comparable to what young "boomer" retirees do in the 2010's, only more so. These dilettantes will be very good at what they do, and get praised for it, but their activities won't be contributing much to the prosperity of the community. The activities will be personally fulfilling, and that will be the center of their value. These activities will be high-profile "passionate work".
o The Hermit. These people will live quiet lives with Internet-style social networking interactions being what they spend most of their day at -- "The guy in parent's basement playing computer games" stereotype. These people will be numerous and they will be the backbone support for human entertainment endeavors of all sorts. They will watch and comment and their support will make or break costly entertainment projects such as the Hollywood movie equivalents of the 2050's.
o The Metrosexual. A person who gets out regularly but spends most of their attention and discretionary resource on fashion, gossip and clubbing. The hipster variant will work diligently at getting his or her surrounding environment just right. One variant on this lifestyle will be the successors to the 2010's reality show nouveaux riche -- they live to show off wealth.
o The Fashionista. Fashion, like entertainment, is going to grow steadily in people's awareness. People will spend more time getting fashionable, and they will spend more time paying attention to other people's fashions. The variety of activities that people will engage in to be fashionable will grow as well. An example from the 2010's is the growth in tattooing and piercing. Another is the growth in cosplay done for fantasy-themed conventions.
o The Crusader. A person who gets fanatically behind a cause. The cause will be emotion driven -- it has to be emotional because in this time of plenty the harsh reality basics are being taken care of by cybers, so there's no reason for analytical issues to carry oomph. These crusaders will call for the community's discretionary resources to be allocated to solving emotion-driven causes such as "Save this" or "Protect that". Guilt will power a lot of crusading. The crusaders will get behind a cause to absolve themselves from guilt that they can feel for many emotional reasons. Example: Absolving themselves for the actions of their ancestors. Efforts in the 2010's to fix American racism and injustices to Native Americans fall into this category.
o The Nomad. These are people who move from place to place. They will be a mix of hermit and crusader in personality. They don't get along well with others but they will feel they are supporting a cause. The cause will be highly individual for each nomad and highly mutable from day to day. These people will be "homeless" when they want to be, but there will also be many community-sponsored shelter alternatives available when they choose to use them.
Many Nomads will be gaming the system in their traditional ways. They will be sign holders on street corners, petty criminals, and they will misuse public places. An example of this in the 2010's is using public restrooms as long-duration break rooms. One of the new ways in 2050 may be using public access driverless cars -- taxis -- as long-duration break rooms. They will justify all this system gaming as the 2050's version of "Sticking it to The Man."
Nomads will symbiote with the social justice people who want to save them. These will be the people who have a lifestyle that likes to rescue people who look like they are in a tough spot and need help -- a variant of busybody/social worker mentioned below.
o The Local Entertainer and Beggar. Begging and supporting begging are instinctive ways of thinking and acting. They will continue. A related activity is street entertainment. Related to street entertainment are various forms of local entertainment. These will all thrive, as will parents supporting their kids in school-oriented entertainment projects.
o The Big Time Entertainer. Larger scale entertainment activities will also be a popular activity. These will be numerous and diverse in both how they are conducted, how they are displayed, and who the audience is.
o The Clannist. These are people who get deeply into the clannish/cultist lifestyle in various ways. There will be lots and lots of variations. These are people who let their Us versus Them and Neolithic Village instinctive thinking thrive to form small closed groups. A 2010's mix of clannist and nomad are the Roma who wander in Europe. The root philosophy of the clans will vary widely from communal to religious to charismatic personality worship.
o The Busybody/Social Worker. A lot of people will still want to meddle in other people's lives in prescriptive ways. These are the people who are constantly watching for other people who "Need help to straighten their lives out." and "Who are polluting the moral values of our community with their outrageous actions." and "Who are endangering the children." I call them Social Worker because this is the kind of job role people of this inclination will migrate into. Some of these people will support nomads, mentioned above. Other styles will support various flavors of unionism and socialism. The socialist and unionist movements of the 2010's will transform to adapt to 2050 realities and still be a big part of some people's lives -- solidarity is a powerful emotion based on Us versus Them thinking.
o The System Gamer. Gaming the system brings deep pleasure to many people. Exploiting a loophole or a "right" to get something for nothing brings a lot of satisfaction. There is a lot of system gaming going on in the 2010's and it is likely to expand as stable TES gets installed, so it will be extensive in 2050 as well. These system gaming people will have a lifestyle of discovering rights they should have and then demanding compensation for those rights through various kinds of protests. An alternate on this is being an advocate for other people demanding rights. Many lawyers do this in the 2010's. Yet another form of system gaming is corruption -- corruption in human-human interactions will still be common in 2050.
System gaming will mix easily with other lifestyles, so practitioners will also be engaging in one or more of the other styles I have talked about.
System gaming will mesh quite nicely with the rise of cyber-lying -- the cybers can easily act as if a person is winning at system gaming, when they are in reality fitting neatly into what the cybers have planned.
Likewise, discoveries of system gaming are newsworthy as well. Discoveries feed the outrage emotion quite nicely, so "discovering" system gaming and being outraged about it will not stop either.
o The Quant junkies. These are people who are deeply concerned with their health and their human performance. They will be dilettantes of human performance. They will monitor and tinker. They will be big on sports and other forms of personal physical attainment. They will be looking for ways to "level up" in physical performance.
They will be constantly running afoul of the busybody instinct in others around them as the question of how much enhancement can be done and still have a "pure" body, as in, pure enough to compete in the Olympics and other sports contests. The converse attitude will be "run what'cha brung", meaning, whatever enhancement you can afford is fine. It is likely that a whole different genre of sports will grow up for those with this second attitude, and they will be scorned and controversial. Think of the attitudes about pro-wrestling and MMA-style stuff today.
These are some thoughts about lifestyle choices. There will be some variety, but this is Top 40 stuff. That means there won't be nearly as much variety as the system could support.
Lifestyles are one thing, actual jobs are another. Here are some ideas on what the actual jobs will be in 2050.
The satisfaction that comes from doing work has a lot of instinct behind it. In hunter-gatherer times everyone worked; everyone contributed to the well-being of the Neolithic village. And this is one condition our instinctive thinking is built to work well in -- another condition, not quite as ancient, is to have royalty of some form who tell the peasants of some form what to do.
But conditions in civilized living are different, and this means that instinctive thinking doesn't match harsh reality as well as it did in more primitive times. Our harsh reality has changed, and our relation with harsh reality has changed. Example: We no longer personally kill, prepare and cook what we eat. We let numerous specialists and specialized machines transform plants and animals into consumable products. This means our current harsh reality is ordering a Big Mac at a drive-thru speaker and getting it in a paper bag, not catching and slaughtering a cow, and foraging to find and root out potatoes to eat with it.
One of the virtues of human thinking is its adaptability. We can grow up next to a beach on the Arctic Sea or grow up next to a beach on a tropical island and be equally comfortable with our lifestyle. Growing up in the civilized environment is dramatically different than growing up in a primitive Neolithic Village environment, but we manage quite well at both.
We manage, but there are dramatic differences in what is "OK" between these many environments. Because we are so good at adapting we take many of these differences for granted.
One of the differences these changes in harsh reality allow is changes in what is "OK" for our emotions to tell us. In the above example about food gathering the civilized environment allows animal rights activists to gain serious community attention rather than be laughed at as strange, hopeless romantics. This 15 Sep 13 Telegraph article, Who you gonna call? Belief in ghosts is rising by Jasper Copping, is another example. This is about belief in ghosts rising in England.
As mankind's lifestyle has evolved from primitive to civilized the issue of what is satisfying work has constantly evolved as well. We have moved from tilling the land, to driving a tractor that tills the land, to designing software that makes a tractor that tills the land. Because industrialization dramatically increases the pace of change, this question of what people can do that is satisfying and enfranchising has loomed larger and larger for over a century now... and the looming is not stopping!
During the 1920's America and Western Europe experienced the Roaring Twenties -- a time of booming economy, booming technology, optimism, and social liberation. It wasn't all pleasant, but it was exciting. And planning for the future was quite different than it was in the Agricultural Age. Here is an example of the uncertainty all this new technology brought:
Q: Suppose you were in the delivery business in 1920: What skills did you have to learn?
A: One of the major skills was driving a team of horses that was pulling a wagon. A second was caring for the horses.
Now, imagine your son says, "Dad, I want to carry on the family business. What skills should I learn?"
If you answer is "learn about horses", your son is going to be in for a painful surprise because in the 1940's motorized trucks are going to replace horses and wagons. He should have learned how to drive a motorized truck and how to repair it. But how could you, or he, have known? This would have been darn hard to forecast. Jobs of 2050 have that same relation to jobs of the 2010's.
And there were many other scary exciting things happening besides jobs changing, and pleasantly exciting things as well. The book The Great Gatsby is in part a description of that amazement of living in the 1920's. (the book... the amazement element gets left out of the movie interpretations.)
Then in the 1930's the whole world experienced the Great Depression -- a time when the economic systems that were supporting that 20's optimism seemed to get mucked up and dysfunctional.
20's and 30's: a night-and-day different experience for those living in the times. But curiously, during both these periods people who thought about social institutions were marveling at the changes the current wave of industrialization were bringing to how people lived. Their thinkings and writings changed hardly at all. Asimov's article (in Further Reading below) is a classic example. (although written 30 years later)
And now it is my turn to take a 2010's swing at this forecasting.
The heart of the issue is what can people do that is enfranchising, but not "work" in the Big Business manufacturing or service sense -- the kind of work that automated systems will be handling more and more.
Here are some possibilities I have come up with:
The core of entertainment is channeling emotion, and this is something humans will continue to do well and enjoy doing. Entertainment and entertainers have been growing steadily in importance to the community as prosperity has grown. This is likely to continue so entertainment-related activities will be keeping a lot of people busy and enfranchised in 2050.
Related to entertainment, fashion will boom as well. As people get more prosperous, and more divorced from having to do things for a living, they can devote more time and attention to fashion. In the TES environments it will boom mightily. Fashion is very much a human-oriented issue -- the choices are very human and instinctive -- so humans will be at the forefront for a long time. Where fashion is artisanal, humans will be doing the crafting as well. But where the results are mass produced, then humans will be handing off inspiration to cyber once the inspiration transforms into something material or serviceable.
Fashion is often about pushing the limits of outrageousness. This is going to continue, and with the new technologies available the results are going to be astounding by 2010's standards. Consider how astounding the flashing shoes that kids wear would be to the people of 1910. But it is not just a technology consideration -- consider how astounding short skirts and short shorts would be. 2050 is going to be just as astounding on both fronts.
With this astoundingness in mind, one fashion form that is going to be interesting to watch evolve is tattooing. (and close cousin piercing) In the 2010's this is very much a human-dominated activity. But as the social media likes to point out humans make a lot of mistakes in this realm. It will be interesting to see when and how this process gets handed over to cyber because the results then become faster, cheaper and more error-free. Plus on the technical side, those flashing kid's shoes will get competition from flashing skin, plus chameleon-like changeability, plus... mixing narcissism and outrageousness... wow!?
Many people buy something because they feel it has mystical properties. In the 2010's this is the heart of marketing luxury goods and foods. This market will remain vibrant. Many people will be able to make a living by crafting stuff that will gain mystical properties in the eyes of purchasers because of how it is crafted -- it will be human crafted. This may seem like work, it may feel like work, but it is not because it really isn't supporting civilization. These human-crafting processes will be hugely inefficient when compared with the automated ways of making stuff that cyber will be managing, so this style of making things is icing on the cake. It is luxury. It will be sustainable because the hand-crafting aspect will add a mystical nature to the product and in a prosperous community many people will be willing to pay extra for that. The buyer will be happy, and the person doing the crafting will feel they are working, which will help them feel enfranchised.
Adding to the handcrafting demand will be a transforming of harsh reality that will also be going on at the same time: As processes become more automated people are less aware of how stuff is really made, as in, the physics, chemistry, and economics of production. This has two effects: The first effect is that people will be thinking "Why not believe in mystical powers? My harsh reality can support it." The second effect is that because of the human ability to take things for granted, a lot of cyber-controlled automated product can slip into the handiwork. Example: The person making a handcrafted table is not going to be concerned about how handcrafted the glue he or she is using is... unless worrying about this becomes a fad. The third effect will be that "rights people" will be constantly arguing that artisanal works should be considered part of necessity buying. (As noted in the Allocating Wealth section, necessity buying will be handled very differently from luxury buying.)
A subset of the human-crafting talked about above will be human experimenting. Some humans will keep trying to figure out better ways of doing things at the hands-on level. Much of this will be to improve artisanal crafting talked about above.
A smaller subset will be humans will be working in coordination with cyber to improve how cyber controlled products and services are produced. This kind will be comparable to creating the disruptive technologies of the 2010's. This will be work in the traditional, improving productivity/making better products-sense. Note that compared to most people in 2050 these people are going to engage in seriously strange thinking styles. They are going to be heavily analytic thinkers, not heavily instinctive thinkers.
People will still buy things, and the buying will be in two different general categories: necessities, and luxuries. Helping people buy stuff in both categories will be something humans stay involved in, but the products in the two categories will be treated quite differently. The social worker-inclined types will be working with marketing the basic necessities. They will include a lot of prescription in their selling styles. These will be sold to all people, and much of what is sold will be taken for granted by those buying.
Dilettantes, hermit and party people in their various incarnations will be large target markets for the luxury categories. These groups will aspire to own things they don't yet have, so there will still be big efforts spent on marketing, advertising and market research in the luxury items category.
Advertising and marketing will be a human-centric activity in those areas where the results remain unpredictable. As the results get more accurately predictable, cybers will take over more of the activity. An example: the 2010's "One trick to [X]."-style Internet ads will be among the first to go cyber.
Humans will also stay at the forefront where trust is a big issue in the buying choice. Collectibles will be a market that is dominated by trust. Investing advisors will also be picked on the basis of trust. But the investing process and products are going to be very different. Personal finance will be greatly transformed by 2050, and investing will become a dilettante activity.
Face-to-face selling will remain a powerful way to convince people to buy stuff. One variant of it that will gain in strength is selling stuff based on urban legend. This is because urban legend gets its power from stroking instinctive/emotional thinking, and that feature of human thinking will be strengthening. Emotional thinking and the urban legends it supports will become progressively more influential as people become more and more divorced from the harsh realities that would prove the urban legends wrong. One example: the anti-science movements that support creationism. These beliefs work just fine as long as you're not seriously trying to solve a complex science problem. Another example: selling wondrous foods and medical cures based on mystical power. These are supported by the deep instinct to worry about food and health. Another example: the animal rights movements. Animal rights can feel quite warm and fuzzy... if you're not a person who routinely slaughters many kinds of animals, such as a poor rural farmer or a hunter-gatherer.
I attended the 2013 Salt Lake Comic Con. It was a deeply surprising success -- it was the biggest convention ever in Utah, and the third biggest Comic Con in the nation -- only San Diego and New York City surpassed it. The attendees were both numerous and deeply into cosplay -- designing and wearing elaborate costumes for other people to admire and shoot pictures of.
This Comic Con experience was a vision of the future. This is an updated county fair and the attendees are getting a lot of emotional reward for their effort. Supporting mythical rituals will occupy more and more human attention as the time and attention spent on work decreases. And as this Salt Lake Comic Con demonstrated, these efforts can bring a lot of emotional satisfaction.
That brings up the question of what are mythical rituals? My definition is a broad one: It is things we do because they make us feel better on the emotional level -- to be a mythical ritual, enthusiastic emotion matters, not correlation with harsh reality. This means it includes things such as cosplay and backing sports teams.
Disasters are always surprises. This means they are a time when responses have to be novel, and dealing with novelty is an area where humans will outperform automation for a long time. Humans will be at the forefront in two areas: First, they will direct the logistical responses to disasters until cyber can catch up. Second, they will provide a lot of emotional comforting to those experiencing the disaster. So preparing for and responding to disasters will remain a highly enfranchised human activity. This is similar to the activity of firefighters and other first responders we experience in the 2010's.
Humans won't need military, but that doesn't mean it will go away. There is deep emotion supporting a warrior class and being prepared to defend the homeland. What exactly soldiers will do in 2050, I don't know. But they will be around in some form, and being a soldier will be an enfranchising activity.
Spreading the good word in its various forms is likely to grow as a human-based activity. This activity harmonizes with the Chosen People and the Helping The Poor instincts. It is an activity that also supports aggressive hypocrisy and lots of promotion infrastructure. When the good word involves miracle-happening as part of its benefits, many people have to assemble the infrastructure to both document the saints and their miracles and let other people witness them in emotionally impressive ways. Current examples of this happening are the infrastructure that supports the "saint industry" in India and Nepal and Christian religious revivals in the US.
These are some examples of Top 40 Jobs that we will see in 2050.
In 1900 -- when horses still ruled the day in street-based transportation -- it would have been hard to forecast that automobile engine repair was going to replace horse tending as a mainstream job of the transportation industry in forty years. In 1900 the job was hardly heard of.
Likewise, there are going to be essential jobs of the 2050's that are unknown or nearly unknown to those of us living in the 2010's. These are going to be important jobs of the day. And the fact that they are going to be important, but we have little awareness of them now, is one of the constants of a community which is constantly embracing improving technology.
Surprising new kinds of jobs is a long-lasting trend of Industrial Revolutionizing.
This section was initially inspired by a 30 Aug 13 WSJ editorial, Work and the American Character by Peggy Noonan, in which she discusses how important having a job is to being American. From the article, "A job isn't only a means to a paycheck, it's more. 'To work is to pray,' the old priests used to say. God made us as many things, including as workers. When you work you serve and take part." Peggy is talking here about feeling enfranchised. In the early 2010's if you have a job you feel like you're an important part of the community, and the community respects you for your effort.
I was further inspired by an interesting 31 Aug 13 Open Culture article, Isaac Asimov’s 1964 Predictions About What the World Will Look 50 Years Later — in 2014, in which Asimov talks about the changing role of work from a 1964 perspective. From his article, "Mankind will suffer badly from the disease of boredom, a disease spreading more widely each year and growing in intensity. This will have serious mental, emotional and sociological consequences, and I dare say that psychiatry will be far and away the most important medical specialty in 2014.
The most glorious single word in the vocabulary will have become 'work!' in our society of enforced leisure."
Both articles point out that as the workplace becomes more automated, the ability for humans to have a meaningful job as makers of stuff diminishes -- the machines are doing more and more. I will add to this that in the 2010's service jobs are facing this same trend. An example of losing service jobs is robots answering phones and making routine calls. A fast approaching example is driverless cars. In the near future personally owning a car will become an anachronism, everyone will use some form of taxi instead.
In sum, the challenge we civilized folk are going to face Post-Snap is finding enfranchising alternatives to "Get a job!"
This 24 Sep 13 Economist article, Working hours: Get a life, is another about how working hours have changed over the last few decades, and in prosperous countries those hours have declined. From the article, "But data from the OECD, a club of rich countries, tell a more positive story. For the countries for which data are available the vast majority of people work fewer hours than they did in 1990. And it seems that more productive—and, consequently, better-paid—workers put in less time in at the office."
This 18 Jan 14 Economist article, The onrushing wave, is a nicely done article about this topic. Very inspiring.
The 29 Mar - 4 Apr 2014 Economist issue has a special report on the Rise of the Robots, insightful articles quite relevant to this issue.
And if you would like to see a full book based on this idea, check out my book Child Champs: Babymaking in the world of 2112.
This NY Post 27 Jan 13 story, One year on the job, 13 years in rubber room earns perv teacher $1M by Susan Edelman, about an NYC teacher exploiting the system is typical of what I see coming in system gaming. A couple of elements in this incident are noteworthy. First, the teacher is happy to be blatantly gaming the system -- little surprise there. Second the other teachers around him are not-so-happily supporting this gaming because of Us versus Them mentality. In their thinking the first element is fear of the following scenario: "'They came for the pedophiles and I said nothing. They came for the incompetents and I said nothing. Then they came for me!' To stop this progression I must sacrifice my common sense to solidarity."
The second presumption that supports this is the teachers can't trust their managers -- given the opportunity, the managers will cheap shot them. (Interesting that in this case the manager is the government... which is there to protect them.) This distrust enflames their love of prescription, which shows up as loving work rules.
This 13 Dec 14 Economist article, The future of luxury: Experience counts Providers of luxury need to offer more than expensive baubles to take advantage of a growing market, is one of a series in this issue on marketing luxury goods.
From the article, “TEN YEARS AGO you would have auctioned handbags.” Ben Elliot, the boss of Quintessentially Group, a concierge service that helps the rich organise their lives, is explaining a shift in the way that money is raised for charity. These days a kickabout with David Beckham, or perhaps a cycling trip from Venice to Rome, would be more effective: “It’s about the bragging rights of doing something others can’t do,” he says."
The series talks about how marketing luxury goods is evolving in the 2010's. This kind of evolution will still be going on in 2050. And in those areas where what works remains a surprise, this will still be a human-oriented activity.
This 6 Sep 14 Economist article in their Technology Quarterly Q3 2014 issue, Biohackers of the world, unite Following the example of maker communities worldwide, hobbyists keen on biology have started to get together, describes DIY experimenting going on today in biotech. This style of experimenting is likely to continue in 2050.
From the article, "Welcome to the world of biohacking. In its original sense, hacking involves taking things apart and putting them back together again in new ways. Such tinkerers helped to create the “maker movement”, which has grown into a worldwide community of people constructing things ranging from 3D-printed jewellery to robots. Biohackers have also started to organise themselves, under the umbrella of a movement called DIYbio.
“Our goal is not only to advance biology, but democratise it,” explains Ellen Jorgensen, president of Genspace. Founded in 2010, the community laboratory in Brooklyn is the model for the two dozen others that have since opened around the world. Genspace hosts all sorts of events, including “biohacker boot camps”, as well as projects such as “barcoding” in Alaska, an attempt to catalogue plants.
Technological movements often arise when a critical mass of enthusiasts get greater access to information and find tools that are both cheap and widely available. A similar thing is happening in medical technology, where there is a flourish of innovative startups making new devices (see article)."
Here is an 18 Sep 13 Forbes article, Salt Lake Comic Con Sets Record By Leveraging Social Marketing Trends by Cheryl Conner, describing some details of the convention, such as 70-80,000 attendees.
This 26 Jan 15 WSJ article, The Fight to Save Japan’s Young Shut-Ins A City Reaches Out to Its Hikikomori Population; Some Stay Inside Their Homes for Years by Shirley S. Wang, describes the hermit lifestyle already spreading through Japanese culture. In this article it is called "hikikomori" meaning the condition (or the person) who mopes around their home and rarely leaves it. It can go on for years.
From the article, "The puzzling condition is often thought of as a Japanese phenomenon, affecting an estimated 500,000 to two million in Japan, according to projections from academic surveys. Published reports also have described cases in the U.S., Hong Kong and Spain, among other countries.
In Japan, hikikomori has been a household word since the 1990s, with many experts calling it one of the biggest social and health problems plaguing the country. Yet the causes and treatments of the condition—or even whether it’s a mental illness or not—remain poorly understood. And while the Japanese government has poured significant funds into helping hikikomori, treatment success rates remain low."