28 August 2014

The Future of Work is Sales

I forsee in the near future a vast mass of the formerly employed living on food stamps and Section 8 - yes, even more than now. (But I will get a little schadenfreude out of seeing unemployed baristas with degrees in gender studies with 50 grand in student debt.) 
What is to be done? The video states, and I agree, that this time is different, that the idea that those unemployed truck drivers and waitrons will just go on to some other work, type unforeseen at the moment. They just won't be able to add any value. The left side of the bell curve looks to be screwed, and the right side isn't exactly safe either. 
Algorithms have been shown to be more competent than humans at things like medical diagnoses, wine tasting, anything really that requires human judgment. The reason, one of them anyway, is that algorithms and the machines that use them have no biases.
What always seems to be overlooked in this sort of hand-wringing is that a) technology is hardly an unstoppable march forward and b) employment is mostly a proxy for relationships (i.e. networking).
Modern tech is incredibly complex and is built on highly technical platforms.  Technology and its supporting platforms require maintenance, and people will be hired to perform said maintenance.  As tech becomes complex to the point where there are not enough smart people to maintain it, the maintenance interface will be dumbed to broaden the maintenance support base for dumb people.  For proof, look at cash register systems at fast food restaurants.

Additionally, it is important to realize that employment is primarily a way of selling yourself.  You are the product that is being purchased, and so it is helpful to have people like you or otherwise get along with you.  Recent Spike Jonze' movies aside, people don't really have relationships with technology; they have relationships with people.  Those who do not form relationships with people will eventually be weeded out of the gene pool, leaving those who can form relationships to continue on and prosper.

What this implies is that corporate jobs may start to disappear because corporate jobs are dehumanizing.  Additionally, recipients of federal and state welfare will also begin to disappear because welfare is for those who failed to develop good relationships.  What will happen, then, is that those in corporate jobs will either succeed in branching out their networks and improving their general relationships with others or they will lose out and go on welfare.  While society will always have a bottom, it does not stand to reason that it will be increasing in size over the next century.  The human system self-corrects.  As such, it is a tad foolish to chase this trend to its logical extreme given it is virtually never the case that any trend continues infinitely unabated.