The Evolution of Human Professions
The Evolution of Human Professions

Until recently, professional service consisted of human providers having real-time, face to face interactions with customers that were rewarded according to the amount of time spent. In this traditional model, advice or products are highly customized, focusing on the needs of individuals.

But in the near future, disruptive new models for the production and distribution of expertise are emerging thanks to advances in digital technology. According to the book The Future of the Professions by Richard and Daniel Susskind, these models include the networked experts model, the paraprofessional model, the knowledge engineering model, the communities of experience model, the embedded knowledge model, and the machine-generated model. Let’s examine each in a bit of detail.

The Networked Experts Model

Like the traditional model, this model involves human service providers, but unlike the traditional model, where experts work alone or in relatively stable organizations and groups, when experts are networked they convene as virtual teams. Groups of specialists, often online freelancers, use online platforms to interact and communicate with each other, forming transitory affiliations to solve specific problems. Professionals might not know one another, and service is more likely to be ad hoc than in the traditional model. Online project management systems are an example.

The Paraprofessional Model

In this model, service is provided via consultation from one human being to another. However, the provider is a person with more rudimentary training in a discipline. The paraprofessional cannot provide the full professional service unaided, but rather is equipped with procedures, systems, and support tools that have been previously created by experts. Ownership of the intellectual property that results from collaboration between experts who provide the guidance and paraprofessionals who deliver it is shared by both. A junior teacher who supports her curriculum with world-class online lectures is an example of this model in action.