Defining where the security industry is and where it is going is no simple task. As society changes, so too does the role of the protector. From simple blade stopper and bullet catcher to high tech risk manager, the role continues to evolve, becoming more future-focussed.
To consider where it might be and how far it could evolve in 10–15 years, we only have to look back to where we were 15 years ago. Before social media, cancel culture, artificial intelligence, and in the infancy of lone-wolf terrorism and drones. As the pace of change quickens with technology, it can be hard to imagine where we end up.
Like the management of any risk, however, we can have some ideas about where we are going. By analysing historic risk and trends and looking at where we have come from, we can begin to ponder on where we might go.
And if we can predict with some authority where we might be going, we can also begin to lay the foundations for the knowledge and skills we might need when we get there.
If we look at where we have come from to calculate where we may go then we can go all the way back to when the Roman Praetorian guard first formed in 75BC to protect the wealthy. This might seem abstract at first, but it leads to my first theory for the future. We will continue to become more future-focussed.
The history of the protector starts with the capable crisis manager. The fearsome praetorians and their historic units. Warriors who bravely defended their principal amid an attack and repelled would-be murderers. They cared not for the reputation, itinerary, or even the loved ones of their principal. They were focussed only on the immediacy of the crisis in front of them.
As we moved centuries later, the protector role evolved from crisis managers to threat managers. Those who plan for threats that are incoming and address those threats with the force of violence.
The 1527 ‘Last Stand’ of the Swiss guard in the Vatican when 147 died to prevent the Pope from being killed. They also facilitated the escape of Clement VI along with 42 other guardsmen through pre-built escape tunnels. Protectors had begun to play ‘what if’ and look to the near future threats.
In more modern times, assassinations and attempted assassinations of world leaders, including multiple American presidents over the course of over 150 years, furthered the development of the protector. The Secret Service led the way to become even more future-focussed.
Their increased use of intelligence gathering, analysis, technology, and information-based preemptive threat management began to transfer to the private sector. Protectors began to look further into the future and the ‘risk’ manager evolved. We now look at the potential for threats to emerge and not just at defined, historic, or expressed threats.
As the world develops, I think this trend continues and we become whatever type of future-focussed professional that technology allows us to become. As we focus on the risks posed by AI and quantum computing, we also begin to harness their power for protective (even predictive) intelligence, and we look further and further into future risks and potential threats.
Becoming more pre-emptive in our thinking and acting. If you do not think that AI, cryptocurrency, blockchain, and quantum computing are important topics for protectors to study you soon will.
Threat Vectors Broaden
From the simple crisis management response of ensuring that the principal was not murdered (still quite important) to the threat management response of managing their physical security, their family’s security, and operational security of their current task we have evolved over time.
Not by choice usually but in response to new threat vectors emerging.
From swords and spears to firearms, to kidnappings, to explosives, to biological attacks. Protectors have adapted and learned to manage threats and potential risks as they occurred to others.
Now, we begin on a journey of preventative risk management as we consider threat vectors not yet seen. Threat vectors broaden again into the digital world, the crypto world, and a world where decade-old opinions expressed online can ruin a business, a reputation, and a life. As protectors, we will be tasked to manage those risks and more that we cannot even imagine yet as threat vectors continue to expand outwards.
So, What Is in Store for 2035?
I do not know what the role will look like, but I do know that it will look nothing like the role we do now. Much of the mundane and even what we might call skilled tasks will undoubtedly become autonomous.
Who needs RST or security drivers when we will have self-driving security vehicles and patrol robots/drones with artificial intelligence? Programmed with immediate action drills for all sorts of incidents and never needing a break or a day off.
The employed protector will be the person who can programme, operate, secure, and manage those systems. As we become more future-focussed, the ‘bodyguard’ becomes the least relevant member of a protective detail. The predictive intelligence, risk analysis, and threat management capabilities will increase.
While the bodyguard will always have their place, that place moves further and further down the pecking order of importance. The importance of hard skills such as shooting, fighting, and medical skills change as the risk of violent attacks from guns and knives continue to decrease globally (as they have done).
Future protectors will look at us incredulously as we explain that we stood next to the principal in case somebody shot at them. Just as modern soldiers look back at the trench warfare of WW1 it will be incomprehensible as a strategy.
Developing Soft Skills
As the threat vectors spread and the pace of change increases, we cannot expect to be experts in all areas. So, to succeed, our soft (human) skills must develop. We will need to lead teams (often complex ones) with less structured chains of command and more transversal skills.
We will need to critically analyse information early and make decisions. And we will have to do it with imperfect data on the advice of technical experts in areas we do not understand.
Our ability to negotiate, decide, predict, and show empathy and resilience will become more important. Someone with the ability to manage complex tasks in small teams, merging human and technology assets becomes the new protector.
Now, bear in mind this entire article is pure hypotheses and I could be completely wrong here. If I am then time will tell, and I will sit in my levitating rocking chair in 2035 feeling foolish. But I have made a living from analysing risks and planning into the future to mitigate them. I like to think I am quite good at following a trend and predicting possible outcomes.
What I do know is that the world of the protector that we know today will not exist in 10 years. By 2035, our world will look prehistoric to the new protectors. If you plan to remain employed to that time, then begin to consider what that future looks like for you. Then consider what you can do about it.
Adapt or die. That is the nature of nature.