When will we have flying cars that turn into briefcases for easier storage, or journey from place to place via a fast pneumatic tube? These inventions — along with many others that we use today, such as iPhone’s FaceTime and the microwave — were part of the popular Space Age cartoon The Jetsons, which aired in the early 1960s. (You can watch a short video documentary about The Jetsons here.)
What once were farfetched ideas about the future are today common gadgets, used both in our households and workplaces.
We set out to learn more about the future of our professions. Our findings are on the following pages.
Front-line military personnel
We’ve already begun seeing a shift in how warfare is carried out: more unmanned aircraft or drones are taking over the fight. Having an army of robots, like in the Iron Man movies, could become a very real thing in the next few years.
According to an article in Fast Company, the automation of the military will leave many front-line troopers unemployed. Will our future resemble the terrible Cybermen from the TV show Doctor Who? (You can watch a snippet of the BBC sci-fi TV show featuring the Cybermen here.)
Our opinion: While this job might disappear for some, another opportunity will bloom. Someone will need to control those drones and robots remotely. Maybe the millennial or generation Z video gamers of today are going to be the experts in remote robotic warfare of tomorrow.
Private bankers and wealth managers
Remember all those articles about robo-advisors taking over the financial industry? These robo-advisors are after the jobs of private bankers and wealth managers. Replaced by complex yet fast algorithms, this career might be on the road to extinction because it mainly revolves around information arbitrage, something that is being easily analyzed by algorithms, says Fast Company.
Our opinion: Slow yer horses there, pardner. While it might be true that jobs that are easily automated are at a higher risk, wealth managers have a chance to enhance their practice with digital tools that will minimize the time to process the information, thus freeing up more face time for their clients. Some companies have already made such digital tools available; one example is Vanguard’s Personal Advisor Services, which integrates both robots and humans to provide “the sophistication of digital advice providers with the personal relationship and judgment of a human advisor,” according to an article published on our sister site, ThinkAdvisor.
Moshe Milevsky, finance professor at the Schulich School of Business at York University, tries to stay away from predicting absolute changes over the next 30 years, but he does acknowledge that the future financial industry may be unrecognizeable to today’s financial advisors: “A financial advisor may be a social worker 30 years from now. A financial advisor may be a gerontologist 30 years from now. They may be a life coach. They may be doing things other than managing their money, because that’s all going to be done by robo-advisors and online platforms,” he told ThinkAdvisor recently.
Lawyers, accountants and actuaries
Fast Company predicts that all of these professions will disappear because their jobs deal mostly with information, which could be collected by machines.
Earlier this month, NPR examined this same issue, publishing a handy calculator to determine which jobs are on the way out, which will remain and which will be a human-robot hybrid. If you look up lawyer, NPR says that the profession has just a 3.5 percent chance of being automated. If you look up paralegals and legal assistants, the calculator says that these roles have a 94.5 percent chance of being automated. Why? NPR looked at categories like level of creativity, negotiation and helping others. The higher a job scored in these categories, the less likely it was to be automated.
For accountants, NPR’s calculator agrees with Fast Company’s forecast, citing a 93.5 percent chance that this job will be taken over by machines.
The fate of actuaries seems to be rather hopeful, with only a 20.6 percent chance of being computerized, according to NPR. Forbes agrees with NPR’s forecast, according to this article published in 2013, which states that actuaries will become one of the highest-paying jobs of the future.
Our opinion: The NPR calculator points to a growing trend: If the career in question focuses more on hard data and less on human-to-human interaction or creative problem-solving, it is more likely that said job will be automated or become a hybrid of humans and robots. Actuaries represent a gray area between these two extremes, being a data-focused job that requires a great deal of creativity.
See also: 7 more great accountant jokes
Insurance sales agents
According to the NPR calculator, insurance sales agents don’t fare very well in the future, with a 91.9 percent chance that their jobs will be automated. With a growth in Internet insurance sales and digital-only companies, plus the fact that one of the markets most in need of insurance is up-and-coming millennials, who like to research and buy online, this statistic may seem reasonable — at first glance.
Our opinion: Agents who don’t take advantage of the technological advances that allow them to sell the way clients want to buy may have a steep road ahead. But the diagnosis fails to acknowledge a) the creativity that is required in any holistic insurance sale and b) the human interaction that is necessary to close a sale that few consumers are truly eager to make. In 10 or twenty years, agents may no longer go door-to-door to sell insurance, but the need for insurance sales advice will not go away. In fact, this need continues to grow right alongside our impending retirement crisis and the gap between coverage need and coverage placement.
Prospects may be going online to look for quotes, but this is not an industry-sinking threat. There is still an opportunity for sales agents to offer a genuine and personalized service offline.
Moreover, clients looking for insurance are also looking for reassurance as they address some very difficult issues, which is why developing good relationships with your clients is irreplaceable. Maribeth Kuzmeski, a regular contributor to LifeHealthPro, alludes to this when she says that being a good listener shows that you value prospects. Computers can hear us, but are they capable of truly listening to us? Point: humans.
Personal worker brand coaches, “personal tribers” and managers
After the 2008 economic crisis, many people were unemployed, with a need to reinvent themselves. As a result, today we see a robust freelance population comprised of workers who offer specific services to businesses and executives.