Oct 23, 2018

Axios Future

By Bryan Walsh
Bryan Walsh

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Okay, let's start with ...

1 big thing: A first stab at future jobs
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Reproduced from a Cognizant chart; Chart: Axios Visuals

For upwards of a year, experts have warned that people need to prepare for automation to wipe out half the jobs in the U.S., Europe and other advanced economies by 2030. But they've been less able to forecast what occupations may replace them.

What's happening: In a report released first to Axios, Cognizant, an IT firm, today takes a stab at identifying 50 "jobs of the future" — what we may be doing once current occupations are vaporized.

  • Among them: "Augmented reality journey builder," "Master of edge computing" and "Cyber calamity forecaster."

These jobs are contained in a quarterly tracker that tries to determine whether new jobs will efficiently replace those eliminated. As you see in the chart above, the number of jobs of the future has surged by 47% over the last two years.

  • The report says that the only job category to fall over the past year was health care, which includes everyone from biomedical engineers to registered nurses. Reasons include financial pressures in the industry and uncertainty about U.S. health care policy.

The big picture: As many might expect, jobs of the future — defined as those that will grow because of digitalization — will be heavy in automation and AI, customer experience, the environment, transportation, and work culture.

  • But, but, but ... Many of the jobs are also familiar ones like "personal care aide" and "fashion designer."
  • "A lot of the jobs of the future are jobs they are doing today," said Benjamin Pring, director of the Center for the Future of Work at Cognizant. "That everyone would be a computer scientist is unrealistic."

Jobs that grew the most in the last year:

  1. Personal Care Aide: +295%
  2. Genetic Counselor: +222%
  3. Transportation Supervisor: +204%
  4. Fashion Designer: +148%
  5. Video Game Designer: +102%

Jobs that fell the most:

  1. Solar Energy Installer: -55%
  2. Alternative Energy Manager: -48%
  3. Home Health Aide: -37%
  4. Registered Nurse: -31%
  5. Aerospace Engineer: -4%
2. The wonderful weirdness of AI

Agnes Cameron in a jumpsuit inspired by an AI-generated design. Photo: Pinar Yanardag

Shrimp and jam pizza: a concoction so absurd no human could have dreamed it up. Because no one did. The recipe was created by a computer that read hundreds of artisanal pizza recipes, and was realized in edible form by a Boston pizza chef.

What’s going on: A group of MIT students are training artificial intelligence systems to come up with crazy new ideas in fashion, food, art, cocktails, and dance — and then bring them to life, writes Axios' Kaveh Waddell.

The project was started by students who were disappointed by news articles that cast AI as a fast-approaching threat. Having taken a flagship MIT course called "How to make almost everything," they saw a different role for AI.

  • "We want to show the public that with AI you can actually create whatever you want to create," said Pinar Yanardag, an MIT post-doctoral researcher and the project’s founder.

Between the lines: Like the AI systems that drew the image we reported on last week, the ones Yanardag's group trained are not autonomously creative — they are useful only when paired with humans.

  • Having ingested tons of examples of previous creations, the system cobbles together odd combinations that a person may not have thought of on their own.
  • Despite the extreme variety in their projects — from fashion design and poetry to graffiti and board-game design — the group alters the programs as little as possible between uses. Most of their time is spent curating and cleaning a training dataset.
  • "We don't want to give the impression that only people who are AI experts can tailor algorithms," Yanardag said.

Once AI draws up plans for the project at hand, the MIT team and friends execute them. Unbound by convention, the results are often wacky.

  • The shrimp and jam pizza, for example, combined elements of seafood and dessert pizzas to make something that "sounds really weird but actually tastes really good," Yanardag says. The chef who cooked the oddity is planning to add it to the menu, she told me.
  • Recently, the team made AI-invented chocolate truffles. Most of the results were pleasant — pumpkin and matcha, rosemary and peppermint — but one stood apart: a gingersnap and ground beef truffle.
  • "Some people didn't want to bring this monster into reality," said Yanardag. But they did — for science — and it wasn't totally awful. After the truffle-making party, somebody took home all the meat chocolates.

The big picture: Beyond a side project for MIT students, the AI-maker is a reminder of both the promise and limitations of today's artificial intelligence.

  • The data that AI is trained on can introduce biases. This is how automated systems used for hiring, accustomed to seeing resumes from men, end up selecting against female candidates.
  • Yanardag's team used bias to their advantage to cook creative pizzas: They trained their AI on artisanal recipes rather than Papa Johns', so the output would be novel.
3. The booming business of fertility

Hormones for IVF. Photo: Leon Neal/Getty

American women are having only half as many babies as they did 50 years ago, but fertility technology is becoming a bigger and bigger business.

The big picture: The number of babies born per U.S. woman has dropped from 3.58 to 1.89 in the last half century. But women still want help getting pregnant — and answers about their health outside the doctor's office, Axios' Erica Pandey writes.

So dozens of companies are crowding a market projected to reach $30 billion in annual sales in five years, introducing tracking apps, wearable tech and at-home fertility tests.

  • Andreesen Horowitz recently invested in Glow, a company that raised $23 million. Glow makes apps that track menstruation, fertility and pregnancy.
  • Union Square Ventures put money in Clue, which makes a competing app and raised $29 million.
  • Sequoia led funding for Maven, a virtual women's health clinic.

Other innovators in fertility tech include Meet You, a Chinese fertility tracker app that doubles as a social network; Ava, a wearable device that tracks fertility through physiological metrics like body temperature and breathing rate; and Quanovate, a device that gives real-time feedback on a woman's fertility based on urine samples.

  • "There's potential for this area to really grow," says Ja Lee, an analyst at CB Insights. "You have half the population that wants this, but there are not consumer-friendly solutions that are easy to understand."

Between the lines: Many younger women are using these new apps not to pursue pregnancies, but to avoid them, Lee says. "Even if they may not want to have kids ... it gives women info about their general health."

Go deeper: The next generation of fertility treatments

4. Worthy of your time

Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

City pollution is killing people (Simon Kuper - FT) (subscription)

The looming danger of non-banks (Felix Salmon - Axios)

Getting to space has become much cheaper (The Economist) (data)

Gloves off in CIA war against election meddling (Julian Barnes - NYT)

Global economic momentum is running out (John Kemp - Reuters)

5. 1 missing thing: Africa, from Apple’s empire

Photo: Apple

"Join a worldwide company that reflects the whole wide world," writes Apple on its new page about jobs (as in careers, not Steve). But the map under the sweeping statement is missing a certain section of this whole world — the entire continent of Africa.

Why it matters: The trillion-dollar company seems to be everywhere on the Earth. But those are only appearances: it has some employees in Africa, but no stores, facilities, or offices, according to the map, leaving an enormous gap in its global empire, Kaveh writes.

Apple appears to be looking for an app store manager in Johannesburg, writes Quartz’s Mike Murphy. And Apple does sell its gadgets and repair them through affiliates where it doesn’t have official stores. But the company doesn’t even report sales in Africa in its quarterly earnings, Murphy reports.

Apple did not respond to an email seeking comment. But in one way, it does have a significant presence in Africa, tweets Mashable's Michael Nuñez: Some of the metals that the company uses to build its devices are mined in countries like the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Bryan Walsh