Will your job disappear?

Will your job disappear?

Surely a society does not get rid of work without finding other jobs or money-earning occupations to employ the people being thrown out? Well, it is exactly what we are doing worldwide in the interests of efficiency. accuracy and economy. As they say, Robots don’t need weekends off and Artificial Intelligence doesn’t sleep. Successful capitalism demands that whenever we can economically replace people we do so. What are we going to do with those people then?

Many will say the new economy will retrain them and they will be needed for new jobs. Maybe, or maybe only partly. In Singapore, we have a lot of mid-career graduates driving taxis. Nothing wrong with that and a nice life-style if you like driving. Choose your own times to work. But a graduate costs a lot to educate and frankly should be doing more than driving taxis, noble a job as that is. Besides, the expectations of a graduate’s family may not be satisfied by the earnings.

So what are those for whom the jobs being replaced provided an income going to do? If highly trainable they may be able to learn modern technology. If highly creative they can certainly contribute to developments not yet thought of. Not all will have these abilities. And taxis will be automated before very long anyway. Governments will simply not be able to provide for the needs of the displaced numbers involved. Those affected will have to do something that pays.

The purpose of automation and AI is to make more money more cheaply. That involves volume production, at least at the outset. As people get richer they want to identify themselves more expressively. Mass production produces its own need for unique identification. A smart woman’s coat off the rack in a major department store needs an exceptional brooch to make it a personal statement.  IKEA did us well for many years. As its furniture sales have grown so has the need for pictures and ornaments to show we are different from all the other IKEA customers. IKEA are themselves starting to partly satisfy this need by renting furniture.

The craft trades will offer an opportunity at prices somewhere between the cheap and tawdry and the high-roller costs of contemporary art. Uniqueness has to be pleasing to the eye, not necessarily expensive. Besides, something made for you personally as a gift is usually worth treasuring. A society with substantial craftspeople in it would be interesting, too. In the past these sorts of people have been exceptionally good members of society.

I recall a craft fair in California some years ago. The local authority had posted a street-side notice saying ‘Please take your rubbish home’. The witty stallholder with his pitch very close to it had erected another notice of his own alongside it: ‘Please take our rubbish home, too’. You had to buy something from him for such a good sense of humour.

Initiative and enterprise will bring prosperity to those having to find a new job, a new way of life. It will probably bring independence too. People coming to us wanting secure corporate jobs sometimes cannot find the right niche for whatever reason. Running their own gigs has two useful results. First, they find that they can. Business may look like a game of chess but it is in practice a very simple one. Their gigs may not make them the richest people on earth but they very often make them the happiest.

Second, since they will be selling their goods or services to companies they will make connections that can be exceptionally useful additions to their network. They will often be offered good jobs to join a company. If their due diligence tells that that the company is stable and not prone to a big turnover of employees they may well do so and be very satisfied with the result.

The hardest thing if you lose your job for any reason is the consequential loss of confidence you suffer – just at the time when you most need confidence. It is natural to be disappointed by rejection. It is the most devastating thing that can happen to you emotionally. You should not hesitate to seek some support. It is always brave to go it alone when having difficulties. But it is foolish to tackle something tough without a guide.

The next person who hires you or buys your services has been through the same trauma as you – s/he has been sacked at one time or another. They know what it’s like. They will probably have a certain sympathy for you. That’s not to say they will give you a job – anyway you don’t want a sympathy job. You want a job you got for yourself.

You want to look in the mirror and say  ‘I did that’.

However, you are going to climb Mt Everest.

Take a Sherpa with you.