What 1982 Got Right About Future Jobs
Personal robot psychologists and moon shuttle pilots feature in a 1982 book that predicted the jobs that would exist 30 years in the future. Three decades after the book's publication, Smithsonian Magazine's Paleofuture blog has decided to take a look at what it got right or wrong.
People living in the year 2012 may snicker at some of the book's predictions about 21st century careers — "The Kids' Whole Future Catalog" includes a sadly optimistic view of human colonization of space by listing jobs such as space colony actor/actress and space hotel chef. Today's space company efforts have remained restricted to space taxi service for the International Space Station, space tourism and a long-term gamble on mining asteroids.
But the book correctly predicts that the rise of home computers will allow ordinary people to rely less upon travel agents and stock brokers. Travel agents have certainly taken a career hit from airline reservation websites, but human stock brokers remain more active — even if computer algorithms have begun threatening to take over their jobs. [Robot Financial Workers to Replace Human Traders, Report Says]
A partially-correct prediction suggests that genetic engineering will exist as a career. But the book's idea of genetic engineering gets ahead of reality — no genetic engineers or synthetic biologists have gotten so far as creating "space-sturdy strains" of creatures. In fact, genetic engineers still struggle to even change the color patterns of animal species.
More of the book's predictions may yet come true in the coming decades, such as the idea of computers that can program themselves and eliminate the need for human computer programmers.