I’m trying to look to the future and see what the job of the future might be like, in light of the post-industrial era now emerging.
For that, we first need to look at the job of the past.
The Industrial Job
What were some of the attributes of the industrial job?
- 9 to 5 or shift-based; strict regimented schedule
- Repetitive, replaceable, specialized and measurable
- Performance scaled up with pay
- Little or no originality or creativity required
- Little intelligence or education required
- Performed on-location
- Directly linked to the sale of goods or services
Popular positions and sectors: retail (consumption), services (security guards, tellers, etc.), manufacturing, construction.
The other sector is the no-productive-value sector, which employs military troops and anyone in financial services, marketing, sales, and legal. These jobs will be downsized severely in the coming post-industrial economy.
The Post-Industrial Job
What will be the attributes of the post-industrial job? They would naturally have to be the opposite of the industrial era job.
- Location and time independent (work from anywhere in the world, at any time)
- Generalized (combining multiple disciplines), creative, non-measurable, and irreplaceable (highly brand-driven)
- Performance does not scale with pay, as long as enough pay is given to take the money issue ‘off the table’ (thus, pricing will be done in tiers – from each according to his ability – I know it sounds like communism but it’s true)
- High level of general intelligence required so as to be able to learn anything at any time
- Produces intellectual property
The post-industrial job will be much more creative. You will have a brand for yourself. Your brand will be what you sell to an “employer.” I should make a note here and clarify that your employer will be your customer, so you will need to be a business, a micro-business probably. This again underscores the need for generalized knowledge in a wide variety of area – business, law, economics, marketing, and of course whatever your area of expertise or talent may be.
Your brand will be an identifier for your brain. Since it’s your brain, and nobody else can own it, your brain is a valuable asset if it contains valuable information.
A lot more attention will be given to merit, and being active in the community, which also brings up the idea of open-source and Civilization 2.0.
Basically, your driving motivation in life in the post-industrial era will not be to earn as much money as you can and acquire as many material goods (whether needed or not) as possible. It will be to make a statement. It will be to contribute to the community of knowledge and creative expression that will encompass all post-industrial Civilization 2.0 societies.
The post-industrial job will be segmented into two areas (sectors, if you will):
- Research & Development
Research & Development: The ‘Mad Scientist’
R & D will encompass things like how to build more sustainable cities, how to design the most ___ something. It’s started with the software community, where people are actively competing for demonstrating the most amazing software that they can build. It’s happening all the time. The main focus of the development will be on sustainability and automation. Remember these key words because these will be the main economic drivers.
Sustainability will focus on reuse, recycling, and reduction of waste. Automation will focus on eliminating the industrial-era jobs still remaining.
Automation will prove to be economically beneficial to humanity no matter what the initial investment cost may be, because ultimately, even if we don’t accomplish it fully 200 years from now, when we do it will save an eternity of human labour. Think about that. That has huge implications. Your automation logic will never decay; it will never die. It will live forever. Therefore, automation will increasingly show itself to be economically viable no matter what the application, whether it be automating provisioning outlets (now retail stores), the transportation infrastructure, cleaning, restaurants, education, or anything else.
The more we automate, the less we’ll have to work (duh!). Traditional industrial-era jobs will disappear at an exponentially increasing pace. And that’s a great thing, because we can all focus on building our brands – building our collective idea-space, where all we do is think, create, design, imagine, and share.
Clearly, in the R & D space, brains will be important. Researchers, developers, scientists, engineers, mathematicians, and so on will be increasingly more in demand. Relentless self-education and self-re-education will be required in order to enter and remain in this space. Sure, not all of us will be researchers; some will still have to supervise the machines, and there will still be some traditional industrial-era jobs for a while, but the trend is clearly in this direction.
In the R & D space, things will generally progress from idea to nothing happening to nothing happening to nothing happening for a frustratingly long time to sudden breakthrough. This is how the whole field operates. Therefore, if you plan to build a business in the R & D space, you need to have patience and flexibility. But of course, if your brand is good, your customers will probably forgive any delays you may be experiencing in the latest cutting-edge development because they too will know that it’s only a matter of time before it will emerge.
Entertainment: The ‘Creative Guru’
In Entertainment, there’s no doubt that demand will continue to rise. The more free time people have, the more they will want to indulge in entertainment activities, whether they be real or virtual. People who have creative ideas or well-honed talents like being able to play or compose music, being able to write good fiction, being good at graphic design, and so on, will be very successful in the post-industrial era. However, there will be an increased need to market yourself successfully. Therefore, these people will have to be very good at marketing. Again, you can see that the pattern of generalized knowledge applies here as well.
Creative people with good business and marketing skills will flourish in the post-industrial era. The key will be building a brand for yourself and being patient and flexible, willing to work with your customers to not only deliver what they want but also to charge a reasonable price (each customer will be different). You will need to give something away for free at all times, to attract potential customers. You will also need to accept donations, to capture the altruistic types. You will need to network and get involved in your community to exchange ideas with experts and potential partners / customers.
You will also need to do kick-start crowd-sourced funding, to get money for your next venture when VC funding runs dry. You will also need to sell your premium products to the premium customers (those who are willing to pay the most). But most importantly, you’ll need to be willing to fire unproductive customers – customers who are eating too much of your time and paying too little. That will be part of the price discovery mechanism. Again, you will have to take on many roles: director, accountant, lawyer, businessman, investor, marketing manager, and of course the most important one: creative guru.
Conclusion: Old Jobs Not Coming Back
One thing is clear – the old jobs based on repetitive tasks, limited training, and replaceability are no longer for humans. They are for machines. They are for computers. Over time, computers will take on the role of just about any job that currently requires limited training and implies replaceability. Therefore, these jobs will depreciate quickly. They’ll go from $20,000 a year to $12,000 a year to $6,000 a year, to $200 a year, to $5 a year.
Nowadays I occasionally will joke about how I don’t need employees because “in the time it takes me to hire and train one, I will have built an automated tool that does the same thing with greater predictability, better (faster) performance, and less total cost.”
This is only possible because I trained myself in the domain of computer programming for many years, and because I have learned how to efficiently write programs that can actually automate real-world tasks in the form of machine-understandable specifications. In a sense, I can train my PC better than I can train a human. All I have to do is define the problem more formally and adjust my expectations a bit. I have no problem with that. But again, I will never be able to replace the expert or creative job categories.
In the short run (20 – 50 years), there will be a bit of turbulence as the economy adjusts to this new reality. In the long run (100+ years), while I probably won’t be around (hey, there’s a small chance I could become immortal or cyborg soon), the long-term Zeitgeist Movement / Venus Project vision which I call Civilization 2.0 will emerge regardless of what the Illuminati or the Wall Street gang tries to do about it. No one can stop a trend. Whatever institutions or individuals stand in the way, they will be dealt with accordingly by the people in an entirely non-violent way.