Humans evolve and grow and human ingenuity being what it is, we’re problem solvers and we’re always trying to find new ways to do things. As a consequence, the things humans do to earn their pay have evolved and will continue to evolve. Those who don’t agree, I invite to talk to their local thatchers and shepherds, and if you can’t find them, as your operator to put you through on your wall mounted phone. I’ll be here, waiting.
Humor aside, the constant is that human jobs have diversified. The vast majority of humanity used to live on subsistence farming (before that we were hunter-gathers). Now we have artists, engineers, pet groomers, farmers, scientists, philosophers, and even those layabout writers.
Don’t get me wrong, I think there will always be the roughneck-type jobs like welding, pipelaying, machining… skilled labor is something that will be in demand, the artisans of our era will be around long into the future, because they often do unique problem solving of the type that computers often can’t.
What jobs are out there in the future? I don’t think the jobs people do now will necessarily disappear, mind you, but I do think that many, especially the low-skill jobs, are going away. Managerial positions will be there for as long as there are humans in employment (or robots, because robot workers still need direction). The typical futuristic jobs in science fiction are ship-related (Captain, Navigator, Pilot, Engineer, etc), but there’s a variety of cyber-punk jobs like hackers, programmers, and information brokers. These are projections, drawn from current events and times.
Most of these require skill, training, and knowledge. There’s no entry level master-hacker positions posted on job-boards of the future… or if there are, I recommend thinking twice before showing up for your first day of work. Those who sail the stars can begin training, too, but as what? Apprentices? Midshipmen? Cadets? What’s the pay like and who pays them?
There’s presumably job opportunities for the less-skilled, too, and those with lower ambitions. Most minimum wage jobs now are positions where someone can build up some basic skills and move on to bigger and brighter things. Other than a post-scarcity society, everyone has to earn their ration packets and their single bed habitation pod, right? The problem being, when I think of masses of unskilled labor in a futuristic setting, it’s rarely in a good connotation. Labor that’s dirty, dangerous, and unpleasant is the norm in futuristic settings, often when humans are seen as cheaper and more expendable than robots.
So what’s an unskilled person to do? It’s a question I struggle with when I world-build. Robots can do things with massive efficiency. they’re always on, they don’t have holidays or breaks, you do the maintenance and they work… and the maintainers are skilled labor. We’ve begun moving a lot of the menial jobs towards that route. Janitorial robots don’t steal, they don’t get drunk and fail to show up for work. Computer kiosks allow restaurants to cut down on wait staff and minimize their overhead. There will be some of these jobs in the future, but they’re likely to be fewer in number and rather more selective (possibly even highly technical).
What’s a fresh out of school space-boy to do, then? Technical schooling is obviously going to take priority, there’s always going to be a need for those who can design, build, and maintain machines. Military service is an option, too. And there’s always positions in customer service and human relations, after all, someone has to manage both employees and customers. There’s still a need for farmers, doctors, nurses, lawyers (shudder), politicians (sigh), and all the rest, too.
Where’s the growth? What are the new fields that will erupt? Sort of like Information Technology has, which has then split out into a dozen or more fields ranging from Information Security (who make information harder to access) to the polar opposite, Knowledge Management (who make information easier to access).
This is one of many questions I tangle with as an author. My futures, tellingly, still have many of the jobs and job descriptions that they have now. There are still archaeologists, historians, and entertainers, because we’re still human. We still have problems to solve and we’re willing to pay (employ) people to solve those problems for us.