How will you earn a crust in 2037?

Tuesday 6th June 2017

How will you earn a crust in 2037?

Imagine looking in a mirror in 2037. What will you see? How will you have changed? How will the intervening years have treated you?

We can’t know. We can hazard a guess. We can speculate. We can look at how our parents changed in that 20-year period and make extrapolations. But we can’t know.

And if we can’t predict how our own facial features will change over the next two decades and we can only guess at where our hairlines will start and finish by that point, then how can we even begin to know how the wider world will look and feel?

The truth is we can’t know. Not for sure. And anybody who says he does know (for sure) is a fool, a liar or a miserably deluded soul in need of strong psychotropic medication….

But the future is a bit like the bright star in the night sky. We can’t get there from where we are standing right now. But we can’t quite take our eyes off it either. We can’t help but wonder what it is and what it would look like closer-up….

  • Henrik Lindberg’s idea of the future….

Henrik Lindberg isn’t saying he ‘knows’ what the future looks like. But he reckons he’s got a pretty good idea.

Lindberg is the Chief Technology Officer at Swedish Fintech company, Zimpler. And, based on his study of data taken from an employment report produced by the University of Oxford and US Bureau of Labor Statistics figures, he reckons that 50% of the jobs in existence this morning will have disappeared in the next 20-years….

Or, to put it another way, whilst the jobs will have disappeared, the role will remain. It is just that the roles will be widely performed by robots and other intelligent machines rather than human beings….

To illustrate his point, literally, Lindberg has produced a monochrome chart called The Future of Employment. It shows you what proportion of specific roles Lindberg expects to be replaced by robots over the next two decades….

You can view it here.

  • In retail – everyone must go….

For example, if you work in the retail industry as a sales-person, Lindberg says there’s a 90% chance you will be replaced in your role by a robot before 2037.

Today, retail sales roles are commonplace jobs that millions of people rely on to put food on the table. In 20-years-time, most such jobs will be gone.

In 2037 robots – who don’t sleep, gossip, slack-off, take sick-days, take holidays, require appreciation, or complain about long hours or tedious and repetitive work – will be the dominant presence on the shop-floor.

And the human beings who used to work those jobs in retail sales will need to find an alternative gig.

  • Carnage at the coalface….

Fast food counter workers, manual laborers, secretaries, administrative assistants, cashiers, domestics, drivers and clerks….

All these roles are similarly vulnerable to wide-scale replacement by robots over the next two-decades according to Lindberg’s monochrome….

The low-skilled and low-paid jobs that working people have relied on to pay the bills and get-by over the years are set to disappear.

The straight-forward, ‘a fair-day’s-pay-for-a fair-day’s-toil’ positions will be gone. Coalface jobs – at the dirty and not particularly desirable front-end of everyday life – will disappear.

In short, the uneducated, the unskilled or the unmotivated proportion of the workforce will have lost its traditional ‘go-to’ employment options.

Lindberg’s figures are US-focused. But there’s no reason to believe things will pan out any differently in Britain or across Europe. The growth in intelligent machines will solve the same issues, create the same problems and have the same general consequences across the board….

Those workers who relied on unskilled jobs will need to think again. They will need to raise their horizons, learn new skills, find new opportunities.

Either that or face a bleak and uncertain future. One only made easier, perhaps, by regular payments of Universal Income from the government….

  • More teachers, more nurses – better outcomes….

Lindberg’s monochrome suggests that people looking for the growth areas in the employment market over the next 20-years could do a lot worse than develop skills and focus on training that leads to a position in teaching or nursing.

Lindberg reckons those two areas stand a strong chance of becoming the source of most new jobs.

And that, in a nutshell, provides a hint that automation, the rise of the robots, the AI replacement of human beings in low-income jobs, might well have a positive effect on individuals, society and humanity….

I think most of us would agree that a world where people are better-educated and better-cared-for is a world we would all like to come to pass….

Of course, we must make that happen. Having more nurses and more teachers doesn’t automatically lead to better healthcare and better education. There’s more to it than that.

But a society with more teachers and more nurses has the potential to produce better outcomes in those important areas than we currently enjoy….

  • The pen is still a good tool….

Of course, as with all things, there’s a strictly personal element to all this. There is self-interest at work….

I don’t just write about the world of money. I live in it. I expect to be up and about doing something in 2037. Probably pretty much what I’m doing today – writing….

And, that being the case, there’s a solid chance I’m going to get lucky. I won’t have to retrain as a secondary school teacher or a nurse. Why? Because writers and authors are pretty much safe from the rise of the robots and intelligent machinery.

In fact, it seems there will always be a place for people setting their thoughts, observations and opinions down on paper. There’s only a 3% chance writers and authors will be displaced by robots.

That’s compared to a 92% chance of replacement for those retail salespersons we were talking about earlier.

All of this is according to the output of a website where they run a test called Will Robots Take My Job….

  • Will robots take your job?

The test is based on the data contained in a report titled The Future of Employment: How susceptible are jobs to computerization?

Carl Benedikt Frey and Michael A. Osborne authored the report in 2013. They examined how susceptible 702 specific jobs are to developments in technology.

Of course, you can’t rely on it as gospel. Nobody knows how the next two weeks will pan out – let alone the next two decades.

But as an indication of what might lie ahead, it is interesting. It provides food for thought.

Depending on what you do for a living, it might give an early heads-up on the likelihood of retraining becoming a requirement….

Depending on what your children or grandchildren might be planning on doing for a living, it will alert you to whether there’s a need for guidance or a friendly chat about options and potentials….

That’s how it looks from here….

I’ll be back with something interesting on Friday morning.

All the best,

Dave Gibson

Money Truths