Supply and demand should ensure that we never run out of people to do the really key jobs. If there was a dire shortage of, say, potato chip flavor developers (don't panic, this is strictly theoretical), chip companies would make the salary and perks of the job more attractive, colleges would hype up the benefits of majoring in flavor science, and new blood would enter the field, bringing with them the caramel-and-Worcestershire-sauce-flavored Pringles we truly deserve. But reality is nowhere near that efficient, and we are running out of people for some especially vital jobs. For example ...
Old Programmers Are Dying Off ... And Taking Their Computer Languages With Them
As far as we're concerned, computers are magic. We don't know the technical details of what goes down when we order a book from Amazon or stream truly shocking amounts of pornography, and frankly, we don't want to. That's why we have computer programmers. They do all the important behind-the-scenes work that lets us take complicated technology for granted, and they give us someone to complain about when that technology fails and we can't stream Gilmore Girls on our toaster at three in the morning.
But there's a problem: An enormous amount of our financial data is stored on systems still running ancient programming. Roughly three trillion dollars a day runs through computers still operating on COBOL, a language that was developed in 1959. Everything from ATMs to credit card networks to mortgage payments rely on a system that makes calculator watches look like absurd science fiction. And the majority of people who know how to fix the many problems with COBOL are getting ready to meet their programmers.
It's not as simple as moving everything onto a more modern infrastructure. At this point, the financial system is so intertwined with its COBOL roots that it would be like trying to simultaneously replace all of your veins with fiber optics. A switchover is theoretically possible, but if something goes wrong, the financial data for millions of people could vanish.
Since it would be impractical to make everyone temporarily withdraw all of their money until the problem is fixed, geriatric programmers are making good money running firms that specialize in COBOL. Meanwhile, the industry is rushing to train young programmers (and rehire the old guys they fired because they thought their skills were obsolete). Further compounding the problem is that programmers of the original COBOL systems rarely wrote handbooks, and deciphering someone else's computer code 40 years later is like trying to communicate an elaborate sexual fantasy via slide whistles.
And it's not only banking. NASA once desperately needed to find programmers who knew Fortran to communicate with their Voyager probes. These are by no means insurmountable problems, so don't panic and put all of your money in Dogecoins tomorrow. But it's kind of like suddenly discovering that we have to teach thousands of people Latin to prevent the English language book industry from collapsing.
The Demand For Oncologists Skyrockets While Supply Plummets
We're living longer than ever, and while that's mostly awesome, it does have some downsides. Now that we're not frequently devoured by wolves, we have to deal with other, increasingly common causes of death, like heart disease or insisting that you could kick everyone's ass in a hot dog eating contest. And then there's cancer.