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Artists envisioned the future of work, and the results are pure fantasy

From landfill recycler to skyscraper printer: predictions of how you will be employed in 2030.
February 9, 2018

Jobs are shifting. There is no question about that. But how the march of technological progress will affect the workforce is the million-dollar question—in particular when it comes to the kinds of occupations that will be created.

Luckily, we have artists to bring some of our many possible future gigs to life. Last month, a team from the digital agency AKQA and the Misk Global Forum attended several panels at the World Economic Forum and used each discussion as inspiration to illustrate a job that could exist by 2030.

Many of the jobs seem more like science fiction than reality, but a few are actually pretty grounded in where technology seems to be headed. “Superstructure printers” and “national identity conservationists” don’t seem so farfetched, for example. Trash-devouring worm-machine pilots? Let’s hope they’re a bit further off than 2030.

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Landfill recycler

As technology allows countries to manufacture locally, this person salvages existing materials from landfills to be reused in new production.

Inspired by the panel discussion “From Linear to Exponential Value Chains,” by Tarek Sultan Al Essa, Johan C. Aurik, Inga Beale, Dharmendra Pradhan, and Gisbert Rühl.

National identity conservationist

This worker scans important pieces of architecture, digitally preserving them forever—something that, as it turns out, already happens.

Inspired by “WPP Best Countries,” by Sir Martin Sorrell, Beh Swan Gin, Eric Gertler, Fulvio Pompeo, and Suresh Prabhu.

Blockchain banking engineer

Think of it as a utility worker of the future. This person’s responsibility would be to expand the infrastructure of blockchain technology, giving people access to secure banking for the first time in remote areas of the world.

Inspired by “The Remaking of Global Finance,” by Christine Lagarde, Paul Achleitner, Laurence D. Fink, Philip Hammond, Steven Mnuchin, Jin Keyu, and Geoff Cutmore.

Superstructure printer

As 3-D printers allow us to build at a colossal scale, this construction worker manages their operation during construction. The first buildings are already being 3-D-printed.

Inspired by “Disrupt to Stabilize: How Youth Are Shaping a Fractured World,” by H.E. Khalid A. Al-Falih, David M. Rubenstein, Sir Martin Sorrell, Amal Dokhan, Sona Mirzoyan, Leila Hoteit, and Richard Quest.

Public technology ethicist

This government researcher evaluates new technology in order to decide whether it is appropriate for public use (let’s hope we don’t have to wait until 2030 for this job to become a reality).

Inspired by “In Technology We Trust?” by Marc R. Benioff, Rachel Botsman, Dara Khosrowshahi, Sir Martin Sorrell, Ruth Porat, and Andrew R. Sorkin.

Remote robotic surgeon

A doctor who provides health care to patients in rural locations through a 5G-connected robot.

Inspired by “Transforming Healthcare in the 4th Industrial Revolution,” by Rajeev Suri, Satya Nadella, Michael F. Neidorff, Frans von Houten, and Rebecca Blumenstein.

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Illustration by Rose WongIllustration by Rose Wong

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