A couple years ago, Google paid a select group of its employees huge sums of money to figure out which shade of blue users liked best. It sounds like a frivolous job, but the investment paid off: Google has earned hundreds of millions in extra revenue from people clicking on perfectly-blue ads.
Ayah Bdeir thinks that's the world we live in now, one in which odd-seeming jobs keep the world turning.
Bdeir is the CEO of the home-invention company littlebits, a TED senior fellow, and an alum of MIT's Media Lab. She believes that 65% of jobs for the class of 2030 don't even exist yet, so students need to learn a variety of skills to stay adaptable.
Here are five of the jobs Bdeir thinks could explode in the next 15 years.
1. Robotics Veterinarian
The line between biology and technology is blurring.
In 15 years, pet owners could be taking their furry friends to people who have more of an engineering background than a medical one.
Bdeir believes robotics vets will help live animals who may have prosthetic limbs or implanted chips, or animatronic animals — like Big Dog from Boston Dynamics — that need some careful rewiring.
2. Behavioral Game Designer
In the coming decades, Bdeir suspects gamification will become even more useful in helping people de-stress and get healthy.
In the same way Pokémon Go helped a population of couch potatoes get up and move and fitness trackers turn step-counting into a high score, programmers will create clever apps and products that make healthy living the most appealing option.
Students will need skills related to problem-solving, computational thinking, and empathy.
3. Holoportation Specialist
Microsoft is already working on technology that lets you project your body someplace else, similar to how R2-D2 played a holographic message from Princess Leia in "Star Wars."
The company calls it "holoportation."
Bdeir says it'll be the job of a holoportation specialist to make sure transporting someone's virtual presence to another location is seamless and natural, much like how several companies are currently racing to make virtual reality as immersive as possible.
4. Climate Engineer
Scientists aren't optimistic that we can reverse the warming effects of climate change, but future technologies may let us manipulate the climate to a certain extent.
Bdeir stands alongside others who believe geoengineering could mitigate climate change-related damage, bringing the carbon-polluted oceans back to good health and using technology like artificial trees to suck up carbon in the atmosphere.
5. Artificial Organ Farmer
Artificial organs remove the hassle of looking for suitable donors — doctors could just grow the necessary liver or heart and get patients back on their feet.
As scientists hone the process further, Bdeir says, students will have greater incentive to learn about the relationship between biology and tech. They could be growing stem cells in a lab or cranking out mechanical hearts with a 3D printer.
The big upside: There'd be virtually no chance of organ rejection.