Friday, December 3, 2010

A New Age: Death of the 9 to 5

I had initially planned to write out one article describing my stance on where I believe technology and the rest of the world is heading. I then realized that would be a long and rambling article. So for everyone's benefit, I will break them down into bite sized entries, later to be compiled into one coherent article (or essay).

(A New Age: 2)

Growing up, it seemed a steady, good paying, 9 to 5 job was the definition of success. Entering the workforce in my twenties, a steady, good paying, 9 to 5 job seems like a terrible idea, if you can even find one. The term 9 to 5 is simply my way of describing an everyday job, perhaps with cubicles or angry patrons. This should cover almost all of you, and yes your job is going away.

Take a look at the unemployment rate. It's at 9.8% as of December 3, 2010. To put this in perspective, the most recent high was 8.2% in February 1992 (according to Google Public Data), the next spike was to 6.5% in January 2003, and it peaked at 10.6% in January 2010. (Notice a pattern in the months there?) As you may have heard in the news, the unemployment rate has been pesky, and just jumped 0.2% today (December 3, 2010). One reason for this is the huge extinction of jobs in the housing industry, from construction to sales. However, I think many more jobs have simply gone extinct, largely due to technology. The automation of manufacturing plants, the widespread use of the digital format, and, dare I say, robots, have simply made some jobs not necessary. In addition to this, technology appears to be advancing at an accelerating pace and will most likely displace more and more jobs.

Of course this will be partly balanced by a gain in jobs in this growing technology sector, but who will get them? I never want to undervalue lifetime experience, but frankly if I am hiring someone right now they need to be tech savvy. Business is largely measured by growth, I feel very confident in saying that without embracing technology, you will not have growth. The generation just entering the workforce has grown up using computers, the next generation will have been raised by people who grew up with computers, and so on. Again you can see how technology will begin to snowball and soon, computer literacy will be measured instead of actual literacy (for better or worse).

But here you are, on the "interwebs", reading a blog, you're obviously tech savvy so why is your 9 to 5 dying? This is due to a much larger shift in society as a whole. This is a point that I have a hard time nailing down, but observation alone shows me that the individual is rising faster than the corporation. That is not to say that the sum of "individual workers" is anywhere near the size of the corporation, just that it is growing faster. I have a personal phrase, "collaboration over corporation". Collaborative efforts, thinking open source development, is much more agile and keeps people much more motivated due to personal interest in the work. I want to be clear that I am not talking strictly about technology here. Collaborative efforts can accomplish amazing things, take a look at local charities. To put it bluntly, in collaborative efforts, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, and in corporations, the opposite is often true. 

My Prediction: You may still do the same work, but I don't think you will be going to same place, or earning the same amount, or working with the same people day in and day out. The shift to technological jobs will increase the number of people who can work from a distance. Those jobs that can never be worked from a distance will soon become everyone's job. As jobs become more fluid, there will be a constant need for supplemental income. I imagine this supplemental income will come from these immobile jobs. The rest of the time our days will be filled with doing what we love, with the people we choose.

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