If jobs disappear, you can be paid for what you love to do!

Universal Basic Income

If you could be paid for work that you love to do but is now unpaid…would you take it?

Home childcare, or writing a movie script, or inventing gadgets in your backyard, or building a single engine airplane in your garage, or making music, or volunteering overseas for a preferred humanitarian cause, or getting active in a local environmental one, or designing beautiful gardens, or beekeeping, or taking better care of aging family members, or taking all the time you need to develop one of your brilliant ideas into a business–these are just a few ‘passions’ that some of my clients have identified over the years but could not pursue because of economic insecurity.

However, the day may be coming very soon when work previously un-paid will be covered by a UBI, or a universal basic income.  Why?  Because the industrial economy of mass production based on human labour is coming to an end.  And it will change many of the assumptions and practices that we now take for granted.

For example, we have to work to live—this is the simple truth known as the work ethic and is deeply rooted in our culture for the last 2000 years, maybe longer.  For most of us, it is reality.  And the idea that we have to work becomes synonymous with a job.  It’s the main reason many of us stay in jobs or organizations that we hate…because we have to make a living and pay our mortgages and provide for our loved ones.  Work is often a trade-off between what we’d like to do and what we have to do to pay the bills.  It’s a fact of life that few question.  As a result, the work ethic has been at the center of who we are as individuals and as a society.  In short, we are defined by our jobs.

But business billionaires Bill Gates, Elon Musk, Sam Altman and others predict that automation, robotics and artificial intelligence will eliminate the need for most jobs within 20 years.  Most people will no longer need to work in order to live.  Our basic needs for housing, food, clothing, transportation will be covered by technology and, perhaps, a universal basic income (UBI).

A radical idea

What a radical idea! If jobs disappear and are not replaced by new kinds of jobs…well, what will people do?  Or, who will they be?  It really depends on how you define ‘work’.  Some of the most important work in the world is unpaid labour, such as child rearing.  Some of the least important work in the world is the highest paid.

For example, a study was done on a bankers’ strike in Ireland that lasted 6 months in 1970.  Predictions were that the Irish economy would collapse with dire consequences for the man in the street.  Instead, the economy actually grew during those six months because ordinary people forged a decentralized monetary system with the country’s pubs as the key nodes for clearing checks and finding cash. 

The ‘crisis’ demonstrated how much our economy runs on trust not treasure.  And there have been few strikes by financiers since.  However, garbage collectors in New York City went on strike about the same time and a state of emergency was declared after six days and the strike settled three days later.

Bankers and garbage collectors both perform valuable roles in society but who really is more essential to society’s long-term health and well-being?  When our economic system puts profits before people, then the highest paid individuals are often those doing the least important ‘work’…because they have the gold, they make the rules.

Technology is now changing the rules of the game in some fundamental ways.  For example, working for a living has always involved producing something in return for wages.  But what happens when ‘things’ can be produced by robots and other forms of artificial intelligence? 

The answer to this question is behind UBI, a proposal for changing the very structure of society as we now know it.  The idea is that the wealth created by robots and computers will be shared more equitably with all citizens…rather than accrue in the bank accounts of fewer and fewer people at the top of the income scale.

I believe this is a significant idea with serious implications not only for those of us working today but especially for our children.  As difficult as it might be to think that our current economic model could change so drastically, any responsible parent will want to stay on top of these developments in order to secure a promising future for their children.

UBI is not a done deal.  There are pros & cons, as well as other options, such as 15 hour work weeks, open borders, and more.  If you want to learn more about these issues and trends, subscribe to my free UnDone online mag.

Or, at the very least, start thinking about what you might do with your time.  My JobJoy Reports have helped hundreds of individuals clearly identify their motivational pattern and where they might apply it in terms of meaningful work so that they live to do work that energizes rather than drains them.

Is Job Loss from Robots real or hype?

Robots taking jobs

Answering this Q requires a closer examination of the numbers behind social, economic and technological trends disrupting and/or destroying certain sectors.

Asking the right Qs

Which traditional careers are the most affected by automation and robotics?  How many jobs have already been replaced by automation?  Which sectors are being disrupted most and in what ways? 

Many routine tasks in manufacturing and service sectors once performed by humans are now being performed by automation or artificial intelligence (AI).  But there is a gap between what is actually happening and what could happen. 

What is actually happening

According to estimates from the International Federation of Robotics, there are currently between 1.5 and 1.75 million industrial robots in operation, a number that could increase to 4 to 6 million by 2025.  These are fully autonomous machines that don’t require human operators to build cars, computers and other produces because they can be programmed to perform tasks — such as welding, assembling, handling materials, or packaging.

Think about your own job.  How many of the tasks are routine or repetitive? For example, if you are an elementary school teacher, a robot can’t comfort a crying child but it can teach her to hold basic conversations in a foreign language or perform simple math equations or learn to play an instrument—all of which are already being done through online applications. 

If you are a lawyer, a robot can’t stand up in court and argue on your behalf (at least, not yet) but a computer with artificial intelligence is already pouring over thousands of digital documents, flagging potentially relevant ones and automating a lot of legal legwork.  The same goes for accountants, financial advisors, stock brokers, nurses, architects, engineers and many other white collar professions.

In short, your job is already being replaced, at least in part, by automation or AI.  And, even if a computer can’t do your job just yet, it may be able to teach itself to do it.  Algorithms that analyze routine tasks and recommend options are called ‘bots’ and they are infiltrating all professions as businesses try to figure out which tasks are better done by machines or people.

For example, when you go to your family doctor and describe a cluster of symptoms, s/he diagnoses the problem and recommends a treatment or referral to a specialist.  IBM’s AI platform or ‘Watson’ already spits out the same treatment plan as an oncologist would in 99 per cent of cancer cases.

Healthcare is expected to suffer the highest number of job losses in the next five years, followed jointly by energy and financial services.

What could happen

Here, the line between what is real and what is hype is harder to find.  Certain think tanks in the UK, Canada and the USA estimate 40-50% of current jobs will be lost within 20 years.

For example, there is a great deal of talk about self-driving vehicles replacing more than 5 million vehicle drivers in Canada and the USA within 10 years.  Many companies with fleets of trucks, taxis, trains, buses, airplanes, or ships would gladly replace drivers with efficient machines because it would increase profits by reducing labour costs and raising productivity.

But, if these jobs disappear, what will we do with so many unemployed persons?  And who will buy all the products if so many consumers are poor?

Sure, new technologies destroy many jobs while creating new ones. But most analysts think for every 10 jobs destroyed by self-driving vehicles, only 1 new job will be created in the digital technology area supporting automated vehicles. 

What is possible technologically or desirable economically is not necessarily inevitable.  So, in practice, not all of these jobs may actually be automated for a variety of economic, legal and regulatory reasons.

Here’s a simple example:  If someone is hit by a driverless car—is the manufacturer, owner or victim responsible?  A lot of problems are being created as business leaps ahead with new technologies but legislators creep forward with legal and regulatory reforms, while workers and consumers are caught in the middle.

Conclusion

The bottom line for anyone not retiring in the next 5 years is the following: you already are or soon will be doing different types of work, doing less work, or losing your job…because it’s not certain that these new technologies will create more jobs than they destroy.  Who will win or lose in these economic sweepstakes?

This is why politics is important because a democracy is about deciding which values and priorities are going to shape our society.  Big questions are being asked: What is the meaning of work when most jobs are performed by machines?  How should we share the profits generated by robots and automation?  Where will new jobs come from? What are humans for?

If you are concerned about your job security or the job prospects of your children or interested in this topic, please comment here or track these trends and issues by subscribing to UnDone online magazine: http://paper.li/f-1482569921#/