Where did my job go?


As Amazon rolls out their cashier-less store, you might be wondering where your job is going to go as the world becomes increasingly more automated. Let me tell you where it is going to go by telling you where your job comes from.

There are only 2 kinds of jobs in the world.

  • Jobs where you keep a system that works running so that the owners can keep making money on it.
  • Jobs where you create new systems to make the owners money.

To us, the worker, these jobs seem awfully similar, but they are not.

  • Jobs that keep a system running are offered to the least qualified and lowest paid workers, and ultimately, machines.
  • Jobs that create new systems are created when new systems are being created, and go to those capable of thinking in new ways. Generally, they are paid more and require more qualifications.

Now, if you’re like me, you can’t say that 100% of your job is one or the other. Generally, we maintain systems as we build them, and we build new systems as we maintain them.

What is happening in our economy is more and more jobs are moving into the system development realm and away from the maintenance realm. Your boring, 9-5 job where you do the same thing every day and get paid the same wage is going to be replaced with computers and machines. No one is immune to this, not even doctors, teachers, or lawyers.

However, the jobs where you create new systems will forever expand, as long as there is investment money going into the economy to build new systems to make more money. These jobs require people with experience, insight, and understanding.

The job skills of the 21st Century won’t include the same set of skills of the 20th Century. It’s not a simple substitution, like “typewriter skills” is translated into “word processing”. It’s a fundamental shift. We don’t want factory workers, we want factory designers. We don’t want computer techs, we want computer designers and programmers. We don’t want friendly social skills, we want people who understand how people think and feel and behave.

Unfortunately, unlike the system maintenance jobs, the system building jobs appear and disappear overnight. They appear when people who have lots of money and resources think that there are opportunities to be had, and disappear when they think those opportunities vanish.

The question is not, “How can we bring the system maintenance jobs back?” but “How can we make it more lucrative for rich people to create new systems?”

If you’re stuck in one of those system maintenance jobs, you need to wake up. Start studying your workplace, asking why things are done the way they are and seeing if you can come up with better ideas. Don’t let your boss or your co-workers drag you down. See yourself as an experienced worker who knows exactly what it takes to do the job you do and who will design the robot or computer program that will replace you. Treat your time in system maintenance as a learning experience where you can understand why systems work and why they don’t.

And when you get an opportunity to work on a project to build a new system or upgrade it, jump on it! If you are a cashier, ask your manager today when they are going to replace you with a machine and what kinds of workers he will need to setup and manage those machines. Volunteer to help them design and implement those systems. Pay attention to the people who come to your store to measure and to analyze, and ask them how you can get their job. It will take work, it will take doing things that seem unfamiliar and even uncomfortable, but it will be absolutely worth it.

When it comes to making more of those jobs available, do everything you can to make business even more lucrative in America. When the rich get richer, they have to spend that money somewhere. Why can’t it be hiring you to build the system that will replace yourself?

On a tangential note, let me tell you what is happening as jobs shift from menial labor to system designers.

For starters, the cost of things will drop. Having a machine do a job means that that job is now a lot cheaper to get done. That means the fruits of that job cost less. Prices will fall and the value of the dollar will go up as it can buy more and more. To see an example of this, think of what happens in the computer hardware sector. Nvidia releases a brand new video card and sells it for $500. By next year, you can get it for $200, and a year after that, it’s in the bargain bin for $50, and then a year after that, people are giving them away for free and extracting the gold and silver from them to recycle them. Imagine how much you spend on groceries, and then cut that in half and half again. That is where we are going as we automate things. *With no workers to pay, costs will fall and continue to fall until they are practically zero.* We are rapidly approaching “post-scarcity”, an economy where there is no lack of any of the things people need or want.

Secondly, more and more people will become wealthy as they invest their income into part-ownership of these companies and systems. Remember what happened when Yahoo! started taking off in the late 90’s? A lot of people got rich, and a lot of grandmas could afford a nice vacation in Florida. You should be saving your money and investing it carefully so that when the rich get rich, you get rich too. Never underestimate the power of part-ownership of these companies.

That said, be very, very careful, Yahoo! was a scam fueled by the Clinton administration. Amazon has proven it is not. Companies like Amazon that actually deliver and actually create things people want and need for cheaper are all over the place, but you have to dig around for them. Hint: If it’s on the front page on the newspaper or featured on the nightly news, it’s probably a scam, bought and paid for by a professional PR person.

As time goes on, our economy will shift from service to ownership. Those who own will have money. Those who do not will not. Become an owner, because one day, no one will need any services anymore.

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