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Future Modes of Working

New Modes of WorkingWith the coming jobocollapse (okay, bad word) where roughly 50% of the jobs will be taken over by robots, I’ve been wondering, what do we do to adjust? Obviously, we need to rethink the concept of capitalism because with 50% (most likely more) unemployed, you are not going to have customers. As more people become unemployed, companies have to cut, which creates more people being unemployed and thus continues the vicious cycle. It’s not sustainable.

Capitalism has to be rethought where instead of all of the rewards going to shareholders, it expands for the greatest good. Shareholders don’t really contribute anything; they maybe contributing capital but at the same time they are contributing to bad behaviors.

Our value system has to be rethought along with capitalism. Unbridled market competition determining just a few winners and everybody else loses has to go away. Again, our value system has to shift from the primacy of shareholders and greed to what is best for the communities who are sustaining the companies.

I also thought that maybe those who have been kicked out of big corporation should be operating a different market where they trade goods amongst themselves. Maybe even set up their own separate monetary system. It would take time – a long time – but way down the road in the future, I can envision this alternative market thriving more robustly because it will consist of communities supporting each other. They could leave the big corporate chieftains and their elk to live in their own separate world (they probably already do anyway with their gated communities) and battle it out for the shrinking pie of wealth. Because it will shrink as they find there are fewer and fewer customers who can afford their goods. The alternative market will have the potential to produce wonderful and innovative goods because they won’t have to please the shareholders – it just be pleasing their communities and their customers. But that would be way down the road, after much difficulties.

Those were some of the ideas I was pondering in my head when I read that there are others pondering the same thing. An article by the Atlantic, written around October 17, ponders the question of A World without Work.

The author of the article has identified three types of working world popping up in places suffering extreme in the economic environment. I love the phrase the author used: “there are, perhaps, fragments of post-work future distributed throughout the present.” The first possibility is what he calls the Consumption Economy where we basically work part-time and we have more time for pursuing leisure activities. There might be a possibility of a universal minimum salary to enable the non-working to survive. The author rightly points out that there are issues with this future. One, American society does not like to have taxes support the non-working, even though the working rich corporations are probably the cause of the unemployment. The other big problem is that humans are designed to be solving or working through problems. From the caveman time we have been working to find food and shelter. We just do it differently today but we have a need to do something productive instead of lying around in bed watching TVs or just lounging around. Most of us just don’t feel good doing that. That kind of activity eats at the core of our self-esteem.

The second kind of future is the communal creativity, kind of like what I was envisioning, except it is with creative doing their creative thing. I was thinking of a more broad type of community. Apparently we have maker communities starting up where creative get together and kind of support each other and produce work.

The third kind of future is the contingency future where we build up a series of contingent or freelance work, a la Uber/TaskRabbit/Elance. The author notes that this kind of economy is very insecure and consists of scrounging and competing for multiple tiny tasks (and probably for small pay). Not everybody succeeds in this world. The job that pays $5 per task means you have to really compete to get a lot of $5 tasks that you can complete quickly enough. I don’t see that as sustainable. That method is probably more of a gateway to enable people to see your work but you have to be really good.

So, read that article, cogitate and despair.

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