Someone asks economics blogger Tyler Cowen what applied economic research will look like in 50 years, when computers will be much, much smarter at crunching data and figuring out the relationships between datasets without any human intervention. And Cowen basically replies that we'll almost all be out of a job:
I believe with p = 0.6 that the world is in for a "great disruption." It has come to MSM first but it will not end there. In the longer run I am optimistic about the results of this change — computers will free up lots of human labor — but in the meantime it will have drastic implications for income redistribution, across both individuals and across economic sectors. For a core metaphor, the internet displacing paid journalism and classified ads is a good place to start. The value of newspapers has been sucked into Google.
Later, we'll be much better at measuring which research Ph.d's are contributing value and which ones are not, or at least we'll think we are. Since academic achievements follow a Power Law, that will mean a huge ouch for many would-be academicians. The new professor will need to be skilled in assembling collages of information, raising money, and communicating to broader public audiences. Either that or his research should be very obviously of the top order. The distribution of income across professors will become radically less equal as indeed the trend has been for well over a decade now.