Section Three - Plenty of jobs
A story about killer tomato catchers, a Youseum and bullshit jobs (13 minutes)
OK, so in section two we listed some (we hope) convincing arguments that our jobs are in danger. In this section, we will attempt to do the opposite. We're going to list some even more compelling reasons to convince you that there will always be plenty of jobs.
Argument one: seen that, done that
The most heard argument is, of course, we’ve heard that before.
The industrial revolution would lead to job losses. It did not. The ‘computer revolution’ would lead to job losses. It did not. And now the (ro)bots or the ‘AI – revolution’ will lead to job losses, it has not happened so far. In fact, in many countries unemployment has never been so low.
Maybe you could argue that looking at the current numbers is like looking at the weather and that we are talking about the climate, but nevertheless, it is argument one. Why should the jobs disappear now?
This idea is not that crazy an idea. It is not just being ignorant. In a thick report, the Dutch Rathenau Institute claimed that about 52% of the experts see a major change and a break in the trend and the other 48% see that there is not much change in employment. And there is more good news for the “sceptics” as more and more articles are published showing that there is no evidence of massive job losses. All economic developments point to the exact opposite. Even doomsayers like Andrew McAfee are slowly retreating.
Also interesting to see is that in many societies the most requested jobs for the future are traditional jobs like nurses, teachers and plumbers.
Argument two: new jobs
New technology creates new jobs.
Self-driving cars must be maintained, software programmed, different kind of roads designed, which, in turn, must be maintained. Drones have to be controlled, programmed, personal data coaches are coming, just like CRISPR-Cas-Consultants or even Killer Tomato Catchers. That does not mean that we can relax, because these jobs require different skills.
But, better a job that needs new skills than no job at all.
Argument three: never enough
Humans have infinite needs.
First watch this video on the history of the cell phone (4 minutes):
Twelve years ago, there were almost no smartphones, now it is a huge industry full of people who make money from the hardware, software (apps) and the sale and maintenance of these phones. We constantly create new solutions to problems that we do not have yet. Not because we have to, but because we can.
For example, imagine that your toilet can automatically analyse your stool every morning and give you information about how you’re doing and whether you should go to the doctors or change your diet. Then perhaps hundreds of millions of people worldwide would need to install new toilets, maintain software, analyse data, fix identified problems and so on.
Another example, smartphones with their cameras and Instagram created a culture where imaging is very important. That, in turn, led to Instagram museums, which are not actually museums, but places where people can worship themselves to the maximum. One is called a Youseum. Which, in itself, is very artistic.
This is just one example of thousands of problems that we do not yet have, but which can be solved. These will create new problems, which can be solved and so on. And now you may think: and who is going to pay for that? Well, nobody and all of us. After all, we have known for a long time that economics is not a game in which ‘a pie’ is divided, but economics is a game that must ensure that the pie continues to grow. To be succesful, an economy requires imagination, we need to find problems we can solve.
Argument four - bullshit jobs
If arguments one, two and three do not lead to enough jobs, we still have our strongest weapon, we can just come up with some jobs. Think, bullshit jobs. A term coined by David Graeber.
Here he explains it in three minutes with some bullshit animations:
Graeber points us to the fact that the famous economist Keynes predicted in the 1930s that we would only have to work 15 hours a week. Keynes was right, according to Graeber, but he never expected that we would always want more (stuff, money, experiences) and would come up with a lot of pointless jobs. The bullshit jobs.
Telemarketers, corporate lawyers, compliance officers, just about the entire financial world.
All bullshit jobs. According to Graeber, nearly 12% of people think they have a bullshit job, another 20% are unsure. These people work really hard and make a lot of money. The consequence of these hardworking 'bullshit jobbers' is that they need people to clean the house, walk the dog, treat burnouts, deliver pizza 24/7, etc.
Bullshit jobs create new jobs.
This is very strange. Think about it, if the metro driver strikes, there is an immediate impact. Chaos is the result. The public is angry. Same goes for the nurse, the teacher, the garbage man. If the corporate lawyer strikes, the world may just get a little better. According to Graeber, the bullshit jobs defy the laws of capitalism. It is not a capitalist but a social choice that we believe that the in-house lawyer should be paid more than the nurse or the teacher.
Do you want to know if you have a bullshit job? That's easy. Mobilise people who do exactly the same as you and go on strike. Don't go to work anymore. Just stop it. If people get angry, fuss, and hassle, then you don't have a bullshit job. But people who have such a job usually know it themselves, that's why you have never seen a field full of procurement officers on strike?
In short, that is argument four, when there are no more jobs, we just invent new ones. Writing it down like this makes it sound absurd, but it becomes a lot more tangible if, like me, you have to regularly introduce yourself to people with job titles that resemble a character from Game of Thrones.
- Game Changer;
- Agile Coach;
- Cloud Expert;
- Scrum Master;
- Lean Black Belt;
- And so on...
Argument five: winter
Oh yes, and the fifth argument, of course, is that maybe the speed at which technology is evolving comes to a stop. We’ve already talked about the AI winter in crash course five and we talked about Moravec’s Paradox. Computers are very good at tasks that we consider to be very difficult (beating a chess grandmaster) and very bad at tasks that we see as simple (loading the dishwasher).
We already see a lot of people doubting the abilities of AI. Autonomous cars are still way off. AI is not a good doctor. Artificial intelligence has very specific competencies and we humans are good at everything. That is a big difference.
If we talk to students about the future of jobs, the most asked question is, yes, but what is the safest job? This is our answer. If you really want a job that will not be automated: pick a job that needs sensorimotor skills and is not in high demand, a big cost driver or well paid, so there is no incentive for automation. For example, archaeologist? Or animal police.
In section two we've listed all kinds of arguments that show that our jobs are going to disappear. In section three, we showed reasons that this is not going to happen at all. Food for thought. In section five, we'll add some additional insights to help you think about the future of work.
Take aways from section three:
- We always will have plenty of jobs;
- New technology requires new jobs;
- Humans never have enough;
- We are great at inventing (bullshit) jobs;
- Technology might not evolve so fast.