Manufacturing will fall. Retail will wobble. Automation will inch along but stay off the roads, for now. The rich will keep getting richer. And more and more of the country will be paid to take care of old people. That is the future of the labor market, according to the latest 10-year forecast from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
These 10-year forecasts—the products of two years’ work from about 25 economists at the BLS —document the government’s best assessment of the fastest and slowest growing jobs of the future. On the decline are automatable work, like typists, and occupations threatened by changing consumer behavior, like clothing store cashiers, as more people shop online.
The fastest-growing jobs through 2026 belong to what one might call the Three Cs: care, computers, and clean energy. No occupation is projected to add more workers than personal-care aides, who perform non-medical duties for older Americans, such as bathing and cooking. Along with home-health aides, these two occupations are projected to create 1.1 million new jobs in the next decade. Remarkably, that’s 10 percent of the total 11.5 million jobs that the BLS expects the economy to add. Clean-energy workers, like solar-panel installers and wind-turbine technicians, are the only occupations that are expected to double by 2026. Mathematicians and statisticians round out the top-10 list.
n a recent evening in San Francisco, Tristan Harris, a former product philosopher at Google, took a name tag from a man in pajamas called “Honey Bear” and wrote down his pseudonym for the night: “Presence.”
Harris had just arrived at Unplug SF, a “digital detox experiment” held in honor of the National Day of Unplugging, and the organizers had banned real names. Also outlawed: clocks, “w-talk” (work talk), and “WMDs” (the planners’ loaded shorthand for wireless mobile devices). Harris, a slight 32-year-old with copper hair and a tidy beard, surrendered his iPhone, a device he considers so addictive that he’s called it “a slot machine in my pocket.” He keeps the background set to an image of Scrabble tiles spelling out the words face down, a reminder of the device’s optimal position.
I followed him into a spacious venue packed with nearly 400 people painting faces, filling in coloring books, and wrapping yarn around chopsticks. Despite the cheerful summer-camp atmosphere, the event was a reminder of the binary choice facing smartphone owners, who, according to one study, consult their device 150 times a day: Leave the WMD on and deal with relentless prompts compelling them to check its screen, or else completely disconnect. “It doesn’t have to be the all-or-nothing choice,” Harris told me after taking in the arts-and-crafts scene. “That’s a design failure.”
Harris is the closest thing Silicon Valley has to a conscience. As the co?founder of Time Well Spent, an advocacy group, he is trying to bring moral integrity to software design: essentially, to persuade the tech world to help us disengage more easily from its devices.
“Newspaper had been running the equivalent of a very nice high-end steakhouse,” she says. Then McDonald’s moved to town and started selling untold numbers of cheap hamburgers. Newspaper thought, “Let’s compete with that,” and dropped the steak for hamburger, even though it had no real expertise in producing hamburgers. “What they should have done is improve the steak product.”
A thousand years ago when I was about to begin my military career, a wise old retired Marine colonel, a veteran of the carnage at Tarawa, gave me some advice. Paraphrased here, he said:
So you want to be a career soldier? Good for you. But remember that the longer you stay in uniform, the less you will really understand about the country you protect. Democracy is the antithesis of the military life; it’s chaotic, dishonest, disorganized, and at the same time glorious, exhilarating and free — which you are not.
After a while, if you stay in, you’ll be tempted to say, “Look, you civilians, we’ve got a better way. We’re better organized. We’re patriotic, and we know what it is to sacrifice. Be like us.” And you’ll be dead wrong, son. If you’re a career soldier, you may defend democracy, but you won’t understand it or be part of it. What’s more, you’ll always be a stranger to your own society. That’s the sacrifice you’ll be making.
I’ve been thinking a lot about that old colonel in the aftermath of White House Chief of Staff John Kelly’s remarkable press conference the other day over the president’s call to the widow of an Army soldier killed in Niger. There’s been a lot of commentary about the general’s attitude toward civilians who hadn’t sacrificed — who weren’t of the “one percent” who had — and it seems to me that most of it misses the point. Masha Gessen’s New Yorker article, “John Kelly and the Language of the Military Coup,” comes close, given President Donald Trump’s tendency to hire retired generals who complement his own authoritarian leanings. Certainly we need to be alert for the next three years — having at Trump’s elbow a retired general who disdains civilians should raise some concerns.
My home in rural Michigan is apparently somewhere in the northeastern quadrant of a vast rectangular expanse called “Trump’s America,” a one-of-a-kind admission-free zoo teeming with strange untamed beasts, exotic flora, and a handful of mostly thankless wardens.
Since last November, we have had any number of scientifically minded visitors. The Atlantic recently reported on the “safari” efforts of five researchers from Third Way, the centrist liberal think tank responsible for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign platform. Before that there was Mark Zuckerberg, who this summer reminded himself there are such things as non-driverless cars while looking at bratwursts as if they were glowing polyps surgically removed from the corpse of the titular monster in The Thing. HuffPo even sent a busload of experts to visit 23 of our cities.
It was the hippies who drove Nancy Hale over the edge. She had spent three days listening respectfully to the real people of Middle America, and finally she couldn’t take it any longer.
She turned off the tape recorder and took several deep breaths, leaning back in the passenger seat of the rented GMC Yukon. The sun had just come out from behind a mass of clouds, casting a gleam on the rain-soaked parking lot in rural Wisconsin.
Hale, who is 65 and lives in San Francisco, is a career activist who got her start protesting nuclear plants and nuclear testing in the 1970s. In 2005, she was one of the founders of Third Way, a center-left think tank, and it was in that capacity that she and four colleagues had journeyed from both coasts to the town of Viroqua, Wisconsin, as part of a post-election listening tour. They had come on a well-meaning mission: to better understand their fellow Americans, whose political behavior in the last election had left them confused and distressed.The trip was predicated on the optimistic notion that if Americans would only listen to each other, they would find more that united than divided them. This notion—the idea that, beyond our polarized politics, lies a middle, or third, path on which most can come together in agreement—is Third Way’s raison d’etre. It is premised on the idea that partisanship is bad, consensus is good, and that most Americans would like to meet in the middle.
But these are not uncontested assumptions. And, three days into their safari in flyover country, the researchers were hearing some things that disturbed them greatly—sentiments that threatened their beliefs to the very core.
Roughly 3000 miles off the Eastern coast of New Zealand, 2000 miles north of Antarctica, and 2.5 miles deep, the Spacecraft Cemetery is truly in the middle of nowhere. This isolated spot in the ocean is technically called the Oceanic Pole of Inaccessibility–the point on Earth farthest from any land mass. This spot was chosen for obvious reasons, as it greatly reduces the risk of human casualties from scorching hot space debris. (According to NASA’s Orbital Debris Office, any objects re-entering Earth’s atmosphere cannot exceed a 0.0001 chance of impact with humans, meaning that if the entry were to occur 10,000 times, there would only be one human casualty expected.)