What will we do if 60% of our jobs were done by machines as the scientists predict? Will we also loose our jobs like radiologists, travel agents, lawyers and local shopkeepers?
This question I am asked regularly when talking about AI. I actually like Seth Godin’s view on this, looking back at the last century to remember how many jobs have been eaten by computers and looking forward to linchpin-opportunities.
For a hundred years, industrialists have had a clearly stated goal: standardized workers building standardized parts. The assembly line was king, and the cruel logic of commodity economics pushed industrialists to improve productivity. They did this by improving the assembly line and, when they could, by paying workers less.
The computer (and the network it enabled) turbocharged this race toward cheaper and faster as it measures and reports. And the network creates value in connection.
The connection economy values the bridges between the nodes as much as the nodes themselves. Uber is worth more than the independent cars it connects.
Today, it’s possible to build just about anything merely by specifying existing parts, sending them to an assembly shop and accepting delivery. If any provider along the supply chain wants to charge extra for their commodity contribution, the creator can switch suppliers.
Either you serve the computer or it serves you. Either you are working on spec to create a commodity, or you are using new tools to create disruptions and to establish yourself as the linchpin, the one we can’t easily live without.
But the connection economy creates value. Not for everyone, not all the time, but it gets adopted because it works. People and organizations working together are more productive than those working alone.
Now, the challenge is to embrace a different form of education and training for a different world. When a pre-employed person says, “I don’t know how to code and I’m not interested in selling,” we need to pause for a moment and think about what we built school for. When he continues, “I don’t really have anything interesting to say, and I’m not committed to making a particular change in the world, but I’m pretty good at following instructions,” we’re on the edge of a seismic shift in our culture. And not a positive one.
The good jobs aren’t coming back. But there’s a whole host of a new kind of good job, one that feels fundamentally different from the old days. It doesn’t look like a job used to look, but it’s the chance of lifetime if we can shift gears fast enough. You don’t have to like this shift, but ignoring it, yelling about it, cutting ourselves off from it is a recipe for a downward spiral. It’s an opportunity if we let it be one.