Fancy being a data-driven life coach? You'll need all the soft skills of a trainer as well as the ability to analyse any data you can get about your client – from their physical and mental health to their job performance – to help them achieve their goals, according to an article by Digital Trends.
Or how about a digital tailor? Your job is to assess your client's body shape with scanners and adapt clothing designs to their physique, while also ensuring they never have to return badly-fitting online purchases ever again, according to a report by the US software company Cognizant.
Such are the possible jobs of the future, enabled by emerging digital technologies. While we don't know exactly what the future holds, new – and somewhat less fanciful – digital roles are appearing all the time and are key to economic progress.
Take Italy. According to a recent study by Confindustria, which represents manufacturing and service companies in the country, there are currently around 45,000 vacant posts in the digital sector. Across Europe, there could be as many as 756,000 unfilled jobs in the ICT sector by next year, according to research by the European Commission.
Pirelli has long had a team of data scientists, but its latest recruitment push has been for “data engineers” to help carry out a digital transformation process in its factories around the world.
“For me, the engineers of the future are the ones who understand engineering logic, but are also able to dig into the information systems, collect the data and make their own analysis,” says Francesco Sala, Pirelli's executive vice president of technical operations.
“It's a completely new way of doing things compared with the past, when headquarters would gather data from the factories, prepare a report and send it out to show what is working well and what needs improving,” he adds. “This way a data engineer can be in our factory in Campinas, Brazil, see that a machine isn't performing as it should, collect data from similar machines in Germany and China via the Cloud, run an analysis in real time and, in a few days, know what the solution to the problem is.”
It's a move from reactive to predictive thinking, made possible by the new streams of data from connected machines. And as the capacity to process information accelerates every day, further possibilities for human employment are emerging with exciting speed. Artificial intelligence will be at the heart of these fresh roles, fast-tracking analysis of all the available data and making rapid decisions based on that input. AI is already being incorporated into new products – we are now fairly used to talking to our Alexas, Siris and Google Assistants – but working with AI is likely to become increasingly commonplace.
The scale of the change ahead cannot be underestimated. In his book, Humans Need Not Apply, Jerry Kaplan of Stanford University compares the work of his fellow artificial-intelligence experts to the scientists who worked on the Manhattan Project during the Second World War. “Like the staff of that super-secret project to build the atom bomb,” he writes, “only a few are cognizant of the breathtaking potential of their work to transform lives and livelihoods, right down to who we are and our proper place in the universe.”
These changes will have a dramatic effect on almost every professional role, boosting human ability with everything from pattern recognition to language translation. Maybe one day, you'll find yourself applying to become an “augmented-reality architect”. According to Digital Trends, this role will involve finding ways to have “virtual elements integrated within real environments”, ultimately introducing full augmented reality into the homes of the future. Traditional roles may disappear, but an array of new positions will be created that blend the unique skills of humans and machines.