Sunday, February 21, 2016

Death of the nine-to-five

To paraphrase a great philosopher of yesteryear, Paul Simon: Hello megabytes my old friend.  I've come to talk with you again, because a vision softly creeping, etched itself while I was drinking.  And what was drawn on my brain, still remains, within the sounds of gluttony.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know.  I butchered a classic piece of poetry, but I figure if Disturbed could do it so can I.  And I did it (and probably will do it some more) without the silly face piercing front and center on video.

I do have reason for my approach.  With the exception of the "Just for Fun" articles, I try to cite sources for how I came up with the picture I try to draw.  This article, however, is purely conjecture - derived from a heavy dose of reading fiction and nonfiction, a healthy dose of observation, and an active imagination clearing the haze of alcohol to show a possible future we are building today.  There are few sources to cite.

Now the bad news.  A sizable portion of the workforce will be out of a job in the next thirty years or so.  That means if you're over forty, make sure you have good retirement investments in place because you'll be forced into early retirement.  If you're under forty, keep up with the changing technology, get more education to help you keep up, and brace yourself for your career to be domestically outsourced - possibly back to you if you kept up.

Outsourcing has been all the rage for the last fifty years.  CEOs of national manufacturing companies figured out that paying factories overseas the equivalent of three dollars per day per employee to produce widgets was a lot cheaper than paying American employees fifteen dollars per hour to produce the same widgets.

Businesses needed to get more creative to outsource jobs to cheaper foreign labor when the business couldn't be moved overseas.  That's where the work visa programs came in handy.  The H1B program targeted skill levels requiring a bachelors degree or higher while the H2A and H2B programs targeted unskilled labor primarily in the agriculture, seafood, and hospitality industries.  While these programs were designed to supplement the American workforce, the reality is abuses abound, loopholes are taken advantage of, and hidden costs (like housing and transportation) are passed on to the foreign worker at inflated prices to keep their pay as low as possible without raising the government's eyebrow of scrutiny.

Could this guy (on the left) replace
Not today, but...
Alarmed with all those American workers demanding a living wage, a demand that could shave a couple of bucks off a CEOs eight-figure annual income, a third outsourcing option has emerged: replacing employees with robots.  And while you may think burger flippers at McDonalds could easily be replaced by a robot (they can), you might be surprised to learn the delivery driver could easily be replaced, too.  You may be familiar with FedEx's drone project, amused to learn WalMart and Amazon have similiar projects, and you might be really surprised to learn of Google's self-driving delivery truck project, but here, have some fun and see if your job is at risk for outsourcing to automation. 

To paraphrase our great philosopher of yesteryear, Paul Simon, again: In the naked cell phone glare I saw, ten million people maybe more.  People working without achieving.  People doing without creating.  People living like the robots that stole their lives.  No one dared, disturb the sounds of gluttony.

There's one more outsourcing trick up the sleeves of CEOs looking to cut labor costs.  What jobs haven't been moved overseas, given to foreign guest workers, or turned over to robots will be filled by independent contractors, nicknamed 1099 employees because of the tax form they receive at the end of the year in lieu of a W-2 form most employees receive.

1099 employees are an employer's dream-come-true, next to robots, of course.  The employer doesn't incur the burdensome cost of  employee taxes, benefits costs, sick pay, vacation pay, matching 401K contributions and a host of other costs.  On average, each W2 employee costs the employer 18-26% more than the employee's base salary.  A 1099 employee, however, eliminates those added costs.

Just as some jobs are ripe for a robotic takeover, other jobs are ripe for a 1099 takeover.  The waters are murky as to what constitutes an independent contractor, but business leaders are sure to get the government to clarify the rules - and most likely, clarify them to their benefit.

Without getting bogged down in details, what does this mean for the employee of tomorrow?  Ironically, technology comes to the rescue.  We can see the beginnings of the virtual employee of the future in our social media platforms today.

It is unlikely the social media developers of today will unite and build the virtual social media platform of tomorrow that guarantees privacy and hands control of that privacy to the user.  Google has taken the one-account-for-everything approach, FaceBook wants your real name and shares everything with everybody, and LinkedIn expects your life's work history under your real name for anyone to peruse.  Everyone else is talking to the major social media platforms to build a profile of you to sell you junk they think you want.  With this targeted marketing approach, it is unlikely the developers of these sites will think outside the box and develop a social network platform that more accurately reflects one's real world life.  Doing so might mean the various developers would have to divvy up the advertising dollars, and, in the real world, each want it all - not some of it.

For you, the user of these social networking platforms, the everyone-knows-everything-about-you approach makes you wary of sharing anything online and, if the philosophy of the social network developers doesn't change, may spell the end of social interaction in the virtual world.

Paraphrasing our great philosopher of yesteryear, Paul Simon, again: And the people bowed and prayed, to the gods of greed they made.  And the gods shouted their warning, in the words they were forming.  And the gods said, "The words of the prophets are written on Internet blogs, tell me more, and whispered in the wells of gluttony."

Coming down the pike is the mega-social network, a one-stop, all-inclusive social networking platform that takes the best of existing platforms, combines them into one, and gives you, the future employee, control over who sees what, just like in real life. 

How would that be possible?

Simple.  The founders of today's social networking platforms will have been replaced with artificial intelligence software that recognizes targeted marketing could increase its value if the social platforms allowed users to control who gets to see what. 

Let's face it.  Would you want your Mom to know what you did at the bar last night?  Of course not and so you may be reluctant to share that part of your life online.  Even a picture on Instagram could be incriminating and your Mom might find it despite you never telling her about your Instagram account..  But if you had an account with (not a real website...yet), Mom could read all your joys of life yet be completely unaware of your bar roaming nightlife - just like in real life.  Targeted marketing, however, could care less about your good son image Mom sees and the bad boy image your friends see.  Targeted marketing will display ads in each facet of your platform appropriate to the image you are displaying - family friendly ads in Mom's corner of your world and tattoos in your bad boy world. 

Yes, the AI software that replaces the Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerbergs of the world will look at you, the user of the virtual world, as a multidimensional creature instead of a one dimensional ATM for advertisers' abuse.  You would have no problem directing a potential employer to because you have controls in place to ensure all the potential employer sees is your work history, and not your night at the bar.  Of course, Mom will only see the good son facet of your life. 

The "virtual you" will document all you have done since starting your lemonade stand when you were eight to all your schooling, jobs, skills, areas of expertise, recommendations, and reviews.  Just as we rate restaurants on a five star system, employers who contracted you out as a 1099 employee will rate you on the services you provided.  The higher your ratings and the more experience as revealed by the number of ratings you received will drive your asking salary for your next job.

The employee of tomorrow will be a jack-of-all-trades and available for hire at any time.  As we can see by the trend of outsourcing right down to robots doing our jobs, most people don't have a career.  They have a job.  It is a huge waste of talent to chain an employee to a desk for forty hours per week when they could do the required tasks in half the time as an independent employee. 

And this is where I depart from the doom and gloom of our great prophet from yesteryear, Paul Simon.  The average adults of the future will take control of their lives and define it on their terms.  Jobs won't be their defining legacy.  What they created and the impact they had on their families and communities will be.  The job was just a means to pay the bills and allow them to build their legacy.

Yes, we are witnessing the beginnings of our individual immortality.  But that will be another article for another day....

TL;DR folks
The workforce thirty years from now will be drastically different than the workforce today.  If one pays attention now, the changes coming are evident and one can be prepared for them. 

For your listening pleasure, the song that was initially a failure (1966):

Posted by Five Drunk Rednecks

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