That’s a provocative title. Job Market Meltdown? Cockroaches?! Artists?!! Lots of scary words there. The people who know me know I’m not big on rocking the boat, but I just can’t get this thought out of my mind. I often chew on the future and this post is about the future of the job market and our very survival as employees. It’s an incredibly important issue, so I had to get your attention.
Maybe I could put it another way…
Hey! You’re all losing your jobs! No one is safe!
Okay. I should pump the brakes a little before everyone thinks I’ve lost my mind. Not to worry, everybody. Our robot overlords won’t take over for a very long time.
I used to think that. Until about 2 hours ago when 60 Minutes ran an artificial intelligent (AI) segment where Charlie Rose talks to a creepy android named Sophia that aims to be our superior in every way. It makes me think things might be advancing a little faster than even I thought. We’ve got maybe another election cycle or two.
It’s time we face facts, jobs as we now know them will continue to disappear at an increasingly rapid rate. And most 9-to-5 jobs requiring humans, even the ones that require years of training that we think of as the most stable careers, will eventually disappear. AI is simply going to be that good.
Even doctors aren’t immune. Physicians may eventually lose out to machines like the molecular healing pod Matt Damon discovers on Elysium. If you didn’t see that movie, Elysium is a giant space station paradise for the wealthy that orbits Earth. Earth, where Damon’s character lives, has become a polluted and over-populated slum. The fortunate citizens of Elysium have access to healing pods that keep them young and healthy and beautiful for eternity (or at least a very long time).
Okay forget the sci-fi movies. Let’s look at real life now. Tonight’s 60 Minutes story also featured IBM’s Watson. It turns out our favorite AI computer (the one from the awkward IBM commercials with Bob Dylan) has his “eyes” set on our best jobs. He even parlayed his Jeopardy championship into a job fighting cancer with the world’s best oncologists. How could you do this to us, Watson?
My point is, even if our jobs are safe for the foreseeable future, we need to start thinking about the rapid advance of AI and how it could completely flip the employment picture for everyone.
Brace Yourselves For the Coming Career Crisis
What can we do about the coming career crisis brought on by AI and automation? What do we do when there just aren’t enough jobs to go around? How do we protect our income and the income of future generations?
Well, one thing that has already been discussed is that maybe there should be some sort of livability stipend, a baseline salary that each and every one of us “earns” just for fogging a mirror.
This year, in fact, Switzerland voted on just that sort of unconditional basic income. In June, voters overwhelmingly rejected a plan to give every adult there a monthly check of roughly $2,500 and every child a little over $600 no matter what.
So, that’s certainly not a slam dunk solution. If you like the idea of an unconditional basic income, though, be my guest. Lobby the U.S. Congress (or your own government for those outside the States). But it’s hard to count on anything from Congress nowadays [end political rant]. Also, I don’t want to debate this topic here. It could be the subject of a future post, though.
Instead, I’d like to focus on actions we can take as individuals to better position ourselves in this new reality. In my mind, there are a few things we can do. And you should probably be doing at least one of these things whether you believe an unconditional basic income is coming and robots will take over the world or not. Not surprisingly, it involves investing for the future:
- Invest in the stock market – Become part-owners of the machines that will eventually render our work obsolete. We can set ourselves up to benefit from the economic boom that will surely come from the productivity explosion when robots run the world.
- Invest in real estate – Set yourself up to earn passive income that way. Presumably people will always need a place to live. Unless we end up in stacked pods plugged into a giant power plant owned by the robots like Keanu Reaves in The Matrix. If you didn’t see that movie… Wait a second! Everyone saw that movie.
- Invest in your imagination – Finally, and most importantly, we can nurture our own creativity. We can nurture our inner starving artist and become…
The Cockroaches of the New Economy
They can outlearn us. They can outwork us. But computers can’t crush a starving artist. Creativity is the one thing that gives all of us the advantage over machines. I think it will continue to be our one advantage over even the super advanced AI machines like Sophia and Watson.
If you haven’t already figured it out, being a cockroach is a good thing. It may be a disgusting visual (not a big fan of bugs myself). But it means you’re a survivor when everyone else got incinerated in the job market meltdown.
Are you ready for an even better visual? The very fact that a human being can look at a urinal and see art proves our creative superiority cannot be surpassed. If there was a computer algorithm for art in the early 1900s, there is absolutely zero chance it spits out Marcel Duchamp’s “Fountain“, or anything the Dadaists did for that matter.
I submit this, urinal=art, as concrete (porcelain) proof that starving artist will be the last profession to go.
Now, I’m not saying everyone should immediately shed their suits and ties (or scrubs), move to Vermont and don a painter’s smock. I’m saying every single one of us has the capacity in their own circle of influence to create something the world has never seen or think up something that no computer could ever calculate. Our job now is to nurture the innate creativity that can stretch concepts to absurdity.
And we can leverage technology to do it. The very technology that takes our jobs by the handful gives us more and more ways to express our creativity.
The most obvious and one of the easiest ways is to create a blog about something you like to think about (like this one). It may not be a profit center by itself. I haven’t made a penny and it’s not in my near-term plans. But acting like a starving artist on the side will get those powerful creative juices flowing to use in everything else you do and help you maintain relevance in an increasingly difficult job market.
So, where exactly does the “starving” part come in. I say “starving” because we can all be better stewards of our money and resources. We can all live a little more efficiently to give us the flexibility to adapt to whatever the economy throws our way.
Actually, I added “Starving” to the “Artist” in the title because it sounded a little better and I decided to run with it.
You see how I did that? Computers can’t just make shit up like that. They can’t stretch a metaphor like I did. And they certainly can’t stack metaphors on other metaphors. Cockroaches. Starving artists. I think we’ll all be okay after all.
Now, go out there and create something!
These are my opinions. Please do your own research before investing in any asset.
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