As artificial intelligence takes over ever more of our jobs – from researching stock market trades to making pizzas and even stacking dishwashers – the cold hand of fear is quietly gripping the hearts of working age people.
“Could I be next?” we ask. The machines replaced factory workers decades ago but now they’re kicking out accountants, lawyers and even surgeons. Is nothing sacred?
And, when I say: “Could I be next?”, I do mean me as well. There are already robo-journalists producing (somewhat dubious) content across the net. And I don’t just mean Katie Hopkins with her mask slipping. I mean actual computer programmes creating articles, scripts, spoken-word reports and videos to entertain and befuddle unwary consumers.
The only chink of light is the fact that new jobs are being created that weren’t even dreamt of just a few months ago.
In fact, several jobs being done by real people for real money right now have only existed for five years or so.
At the start of 2010, no one had heard of a ‘cloud services specialist’. Now they’re commanding annual salaries of between £42,000 and £47,000, which is decent given that most are in their 20s. But then, in the words of one of them, they do have to “write code for hypervisors, write provisioning scripts using Python or DevOps tools, such as Chef, Puppet and Ansible, and write code for enhancing the capability of PaaS, using C or Python”. Yeah… me neither.
Then there are the ‘beachbody coaches’, who are neither coaches nor people with Kardashian-stacked bodies. In fact, they’re just souped-up salespeople, ‘distributing’ (pushing) fitness products produced by the American company, Beachbody.
According to the website, “you are not required to be certified in any way, and it is not required to be an expert on health and fitness”. I’m guessing you’re not required to lose that 20 stone of blubbery fat before popping round to see your exercisers either, which is handy. Money comes through commission, so, in essence, it’s another sales job. But at least it’s a job that humans are generally best at. Suck on that, robots!
Happily, robots aren’t that good at dancing either, so human beings are now becoming pole dancing instructors, training City workers, mums and even retirees in the august art of shaking their bootie around a fi xed pole. Others are making decent money per hour as Zumba instructors, shouting manically at groups of slaves…sorry, customers… to enjoy themselves while dancing the flab off.
Another, more sedentary, role that has only sprung up in the last couple of years is that of the ‘Admissions Consultant’, an essential addition to any high-mileage middle-class parent’s armoury. These professionals help to coach their little darlings to excel at finger-painting and sand-pit play so that they get into the right pre-school. They also oil the wheels to help them into schools and colleges that will set them on the road to fame, fortune and a place in the next Cabinet.
IOS and Android developers are a big noise nowadays, but would not have been heard of when mobiles first became mainstream. These are the clever (ie annoying) people who create the plethora of smartphone apps we have but never use because we forgot what they were for as soon as they were downloaded. Average annual pay is around £38,000 and the look tends to be colourfully spectacled.
Many of these brave new jobs are tech-based, creating and serving the artificial entities that are increasingly taking over our employment. There is not much for those of us who quite enjoy dealing with the public and sorting out their issues.
But there is another consolation as you ponder a ‘Terminator’ future when robot-creating robots take over every aspect of our lives: machines break down and, the more advanced they are, the more spectacularly and annoyingly they are likely to malfunction… just when you don’t want them to.
Every computerised device anyone has ever had has, at some point, has decided to seize up for no good reason and had to be rebooted. “Have you switched it off and on again?” is the opening gambit of any computer help desk.
So where there’s a problem, there’s a job opportunity. In the future, thousands of bright young things will be employed as ‘emergency malfunction operatives’, spending their days scooting around in flying cars (when they work) to mend (well, kick) robots when they judder to a halt for absolutely no reason.
Jasmine Birtles is a financial journalist and founder of MoneyMagpie.com. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org