I was just goofing around on the internet, and bumped into this comment about the future demand for social workers:
I feel like the underlying truth here is that a group who are disproportionately temperamentally suited and qualified for social work are advocating for policies which would require a lot more (government) paid social worker roles.
Lest I be accused of bias, it's kind of like a group of programmers concluding that AI is the greatest risk and that programmers should be paid to research it / develop friendly AI.
While the context is interesting, I think this insight stands on its own. When you have a hammer, there are a lot of problems you find not only best suited to a hammer, but almost totally unsolved. Obviously the world needs more hammers!
I think it's natural to notice most of the world's problems are yet to be solved. The real question is, where is the accessible marginal value, and can we solve those problems cheaply enough that we're willing to pay?
Most imaginings of the future look at the upside of things without considering their costs – and the future ought to have lower costs, technology should achieve that. But we can't forget about costs. Then we start imagining everyone flying around on jetpacks, where it's probably ludicrously unsafe or distractingly terrifying – but it's definitely more costly than alternatives.
So let's think about the world left to be done, but give extra focus to the work we'd pay the most for. Market economies do a lot of things in a sort of 'huh, okay' way (which is much better than the massive disasters of other methods!), but they do signal that pretty well.
Personally, I've been surprised by how much government money has gone into muting the response to the pandemic. I don't think America is set to have good public health for a while, so I'd say people will want more bubble-oriented health access. More people at malls checking temperature at the door. More tech to help people avoid feeling, and being, more alone. And, I mean, a COVID-aware dating app that pretends not to be a dating app would be interesting. Those are the things I think people would pay for next – and there's plenty of problems that aren't ever solved once and for all, so they keep needing solutions. Let's work on it together, yeah?