While Cubert and his family spend a little vacation time in the Desert Southwest, his mighty friends have offered to step-in with some excellent content. Today, I’m excited to have my Minneapolis brother, Adam, from CrispyCabbage.com take center-stage. Adam is not only a fine writer, he’s also a very talented illustrator. I hope you enjoy today’s post. Take it away, Adam!
So, you wanna ditch your cubicle job, huh? Wanna be your own boss. You’re at least curious what life outside those dreary brown walls is like. You’re here on Abandoned Cubicle’s great site, right? Probably on a work computer during business hours.
I’ve got great news for you, then… Your cubicle kind of wants to quit you too! And all those other paycheck jobs out there we’ve come to know and love post-industrial revolution? They’d rather not have us smelly Meat Puppets around anymore either. See how I tucked in that 90s pop culture reference, Cubert? Gen-X FTW!
I’ve talked about it before. Jobs will fundamentally change. Artificial intelligence (AI) is getting so damn advanced that it could be coming soon for important bits of even our most highly-respected professions… Engineers. Doctors. Accountants! Most work as we know it now is destined to be replaced by stacks and stacks of servers and snarky voice boxes called Alexa.
It’s all good.
Our God-given creativity and our God-given right to self-medicate will save us… and probably also the blockchain will save us. I can’t forget about the blockchain. We’re required to mention blockchain in any article about technology, now, so I’ll bring it in full force later on.
Also, you’re on a financial independence (FI) website, so you’ve already taken the first steps to prepare for this kind of “jobless” future.
I love talking about this stuff. Not because I want to be fatalistic about it. But because I want to spread the good word that it’s all gonna be alright. Even if you’re not very far on the path to FI. It’s all going to be alright. Even if you kind of still rely on that bi-weekly paycheck to put food on the table (like I do). It’s all going to be alright.
I don’t know exactly how it’ll all play out. But I truly believe there will be plenty of ways to make a living in the future. And if you’ve already braced yourself for the upheaval to come using the principles of FI, you’re bound to find supreme satisfaction in work you really want to do.
When one door closes, another one opens
Goodness. That’s cliche. And it probably doesn’t make the data analyst that just got replaced by a string of code feel much better right now either. But overall, historically, that has been the case when it comes to our jobs.
Historically, when it comes to technology and automation taking crappy jobs from humans, new, slightly less crappy jobs usually come along to take their place and so forth and so on.
Telephone Switchboard Operator → Telemarketer… Maybe not the best example, but you can see how these things evolve.
Luckily, I found a video on Vox that sums everything up a lot more nicely than I can. It’s appropriately titled Why The Rise of Robots Won’t Mean The End Of Work.
Economists argue we’ve been afraid of new tech taking our jobs for a long time now. And each time the robots came to replace us in one job, technology unlocked new opportunities for work for us humans.
“Tons of jobs have died, but work persists,” says Joss Fong, reporter for Vox, summing up the argument from economists. “It’s really easy for us to see the jobs being replaced by machines. It’s a lot harder to visualize the jobs that come from what happens next.”
There are the direct jobs created for designers and maintainers of the new technology. But there are also the spin-off jobs that are hard to predict, created from the fruits of higher productivity brought on by better technology.
Tech has only enhanced the productivity of the human workforce overall (Well, generally. Ignore email, Facebook and PC LOAD LETTER messages flashing on the copier that still needs the toner cartridge changed). As a collective, we tend to use the power of technology in newly creative ways that up the standard of living for all mankind.
Futurists argue this time is different, though. Futurists like Martin Ford, author of “Rise of the Robots”, are a little gloomy about the future of work this time around.
“Imagine a form of electricity that could automate all the routine work. I mean, that’s basically what we’re talking about here. So, [job losses are] going to be across the board,” He says in the Vox video.
I say, Hell yeah, it’s different. Hell yeah, the routine work is going away. Machines can have the crappy routine work. Bring it on!
Instead of just enhancing the power of the collective workforce. Now, technology is empowering the individual like never before. And if we don’t screw it up as a society, we now sit at the start of a golden age for entrepreneurs.
Don’t have an MBA from Wharton? No problem. You can find your niche as a mom-blogger making edible unicorn poop for the masses. Highest respect, by the way, to all unicorn-related products and anyone who comes up with them. Oh, and the doing fun projects with your kids angle is pretty cool too.
Lacking the backing of a Silicon Valley incubator? And any cooking expertise. At all? Not a problem. Just raise $55,000 on Kickstarter for your potato salad startup. This guy’s my hero.
Shit! Mark Burnett’s unavailable to produce your next television project? Maybe, just maybe, you can get that show starring the obnoxious talking citrus fruit off the ground your damn self…
I’m not saying all this stuff makes the world a better place (even though everything I just mentioned obviously does). I’m just saying, even though some doors are closing on salaried work, other doors are flinging wide open for all the creative entrepreneurs among us.
I happen to think all of us have at least a little entrepreneur in us. I know everyone can create. And technology is breaking down barriers to business all over the place.
Presumably, there are many, many other ways to make money and make a difference in this crazy new world that don’t involve websites and food products. I’m just scratching the surface of what can happen when people’s creativity is amplified by the tools of technology.
Hmmm… Can I interrupt for a sec, Mister Crispy? This is all fine and dandy for those Enterprising Ediths who have the creative elbow grease to polish a unicorn poop. Gross!
But what about the Tool-time Timmies with more traditional skills who like to work with their hands? What about Welder Wyatt who spent years and years honing his craft only to be replaced by a robotic arm on the assembly line that doesn’t need potty breaks? What about that, Mister Crispy? Hmmm?
Gladys! I thought you’d show up to make the argument again for a universal basic income and free Skittles for everybody because of the job-market meltdown. But maybe opportunities in the traditional trades won’t dry up so easily either.
Maybe even something like the assembly line that started to abandon humans a long time ago will be returned to the people in a different form. Maybe even that comes back better than ever. Without so much of the drudgery.
I humbly present to all my imaginary unicorn friends and real-life readers all across the world, the unofficial grand opening of…
The Blockchain Assembly Line!
I usually don’t take much stock in crypto-news. Crypto-coin offerings are the next dot.com boom/bust as far as I’m concerned. Read Mr. Money Mustache’s fantastic take-down of Bitcoin fever here. And then read about the exciting opportunity to “invest” in a new crypto-coin with Steven Seagal’s round-house stamp of approval on it here.
But there’s no doubt the underlying blockchain technology has the chance to change the world in ways we’re just starting to see. And I found this obscure article about a company trying to use the blockchain to bring work back to small factories in U.S. in a way I don’t think anyone could have foreseen even five years ago.
I have to admit, it all just sounds like a little more fancy version of Craigslist to me. But I’m sure it’s a lot more complicated than that. The company highlighted in the article is essentially using technology to help Silicon Valley crowdsource its manufacturing across the U.S.
Syncfab, inc. wants to connect Big Tech on the west coast with underused small factories and machine shops on Main Street all over the United States to quickly produce the parts they need. And for much less cost.
I don’t really care much about SyncFab, itself. Don’t really know much about the company. It sounds like a cool concept. But, whether the company succeeds or fails, that’s not really the point. Sorry SyncFab.
Here’s the part of the article that I really want to stress…
“The combination of blockchain and industrial equipment being pioneered by companies like SyncFab is likely to give rise to a new job market… The market will combine characteristics of both traditional skilled trades and the gig economy.”
It’s an absolutely fascinating real-time study of how technology taketh and then giveth jobs back. Just like what was talked about in the Vox video. I mean, assembly line jobs are coming back! Of all things!
And I’m not talking million-square-foot-factory-sweat-job-style assembly line jobs. I’m talking take-an-afternoon-break-to-get-a-shave-at-Joe’s-Barber-Shop-and-have-yourself-some-Sanka-at-Flo’s-Diner assembly line jobs!
And you all thought we’d be flying around in our briefcase cars rushing to get to the office to push buttons for Mr. Spacely.
Nope. In this reality, if we take things to the logical extreme, the assembly line can start right in our garage. After all, we won’t need them for cars anymore.
Could our manufacturing reality end up being more King of the Hill than George Jetson?
Dang ole better believe it I tell you what, man!
Maybe the future of manufacturing is independent contractor best buddies like Hank, Dale, Bill and Boomhauer all around the world drinking Alamo in the alley shooting the shit waiting for drone delivery to come to pick up the small batch of custom sprockets they just welded to the doodads hot off the 3D printers running off the iPhone on top of the boombox next to the dorm fridge. All powered by the solar shingles on top of the garage.
This may actually be the reality when the blockchain takes over a decentralized and on-demand assembly line. Just another example of all the new opportunities coming our way.
Mind the Margin
Of course, there have always been gaps to jump in order to get to the tasty new work on the other side of a tech revolution. And that’s where the pain comes in if you’re not prepared.
There’s the skills gap. You may need to learn new skills to compete in the new market. There’s the geography gap. You may need to move to where the new work is. And there’s the time gap. People simply need time to adjust.
The good news is, this time around, technology may already be taking care of the first two for us.
In the future, we’ll find that almost every job can be done from almost anywhere. The internet and blockchain and self-driving cars will fill the geography gap. And when virtual reality takes over completely… Fuggetaboudit!
Advanced software that’s easier than ever to use will fill the skills gap. Real-time learning using augmented reality will fill it more. Honest-to-goodness smart pills could put an end to it completely!
It’s the time gap that’s the tough one. We still need time to adjust to our new reality and find work that suits us. Even if we don’t really care for our cubicle, it’s still scary outside it. We need time to adjust to the bright life outside and reorient ourselves to a new world. And because time is money and money is time, that’s where the financial skills learned from Abandoned Cubicle and the rest of the FI community come in.
We need to be frugal. Widen the margin between what we earn and what we spend. Find out what’s most important in our life and spend our money on that.
We need to use that margin to build a cushion of savings. We’ve got to insulate ourselves so we can recover from the immediate shock of a paycheck-less existence and find our niche in the new economy. Or, when we’ve got enough savings, just simply add our talents to the mix for fun and life satisfaction.
We need to completely reimagine what it means to make a living. Stop worrying about losing our soul-sucking cubicle jobs. Embrace the robot revolution. Let the machines do the crappy work. And open our eyes to all the other opportunities in our best-designed life.