At the rate things are going, tens of millions of us could end up as temps, contract employees, call-center operators, and the like.
The signs are all there. Your future ‘job’ might be nothing more than a task list, paid at the lowest bid price, coordinated by a computer.
Update: And just in case you needed some insight into what this future might look like, have a read of the way your next Amazon package gets packed and shipped:
“Yep, if you do something particularly great, you might just be allowed to rear back and let out a scream as loud as you want,” says Spivey. “Let’s all try it together, huh?”
Fiction, or reality?
On the weekend, a buddy and I did a 100K ride in the Bicycle NSW Spring Cycle. It was a great day that involved riding over the Sydney Harbour Bridge at about 6:30 in the morning, a 50k pedal out to Sydney Olympic Park, and then 10 laps around a 5.6k criterion course to make up the distance to 100k.
As is the case with anyone doing any kind of outdoor activity these days, we both logged the ride. I logged my data on a Garmin Edge 800, and the other data set was logged directly into the Strava app on an iPhone4. I later uploaded my data to both the Garmin Connect site, and to Strava as well.
Interestingly, by the time the ride data ended up in Strava, we both got quite different elevation results: 545m for my ride, and 863 for the other.
Here’s my elevation graph, taken from data captured on a Garmin Edge 800 and then web uploaded to Strava:
And here’s the elevation graph for the same ride, taken from data generated directly by the Strava app on iOS7 on an iPhone4:
You can see that the shapes are very similar, but the second one has about 25m of extra elevation all the way along. Given that a lot of the ride was at water level alongside the Harbour, I’m inclined to agree with the data from Garmin.
Has anyone else noticed anything like this before?
The infinitely zooming image
If this isn’t the best thing you’ve seen all week on the Internet, then your week was way more interesting than mine.
This is a really good article giving insight into how we are just at the start of what will be a profound change to the global economy, as desktop manufacturing disrupts not only entire industries, but entire sectors:
This, in particular, is spot on:
In many societies, consumers are now beginning to challenge their passive role as users of stuff provided by others. They are becoming much more like creators than they have ever been allowed to before.
The maker economy is coming. Are you part of it?
For most of us, there’s just three possibilities for the future of what we currently call our ‘job’:
If those three outcomes really are the only ones, then they set up a dire environment for the future of work, at least form the perspective of the middle classes of Western Liberal Democracies. In my mind, these changes are inevitable in one form or another, perhaps within my working life, and unarguably so within the working lives of my children.
I wonder if there is a fourth option?
That title above is a mind-blowing quote from this article:
Whilst I think the quote is somewhat hyperbolic, it certainly serves to make the basic point: Western liberal democracies are exporting their middle classes to developing nations. And no job is safe.
I have no axe to grind with anyone over that, it’s simply the nature of things. And to be fair, we’ve exported most of our pollution generating enterprises to developing nations over the last 50 years, so it only seems fair that those nations can start to reap some return on their “investment”.
The more interesting question for me is: What can I do, and what can my kids do, with the insight that the traditional idea of a “job” is simply not going to exist in the future? The very near future.
I really think it’s that simple. If you are a small part of a machine that is making someone else’s stuff, then you are in line to be out of work when that role is arbitraged into a low wage jurisdiction, or perhaps more likely as the article suggests, automated out of existence.
But if you can make something - atoms or bits - and make it great, and then sell it to an audience or market or fan base or whatever, then you’ll have an advantage over someone who is simply selling their time to the lowest bidder.
Update 20130903: And of course, here’s a counterpoint:
Make up your own mind.
Here’s an article that provides further data points on the theme that jobs, as we currently understand them, are on the way out:
"… we are on a "robot curve," in which creative work at first is skilled, then becomes merely rote, and finally, with the help of algorithms, turns robotic."
More and more, this quote by Mark Andreeson starts to ring true:
The spread of computers and the Internet will put jobs in two categories. People who tell computers what to do, and people who are told by computers what to do.
I keep telling my young kids that “jobs” won’t exist when it comes time for them to leave school, so they had better work out a way to make something - atoms or bits - before they end up as small cogs in an organic machine being told what to do by clever computers.