Outrun Change

We need to learn quickly to keep up with the massive change around us so we don't get run over. We need to outrun change.

A big-word description of how work is changing

The nature of work is changing. Radically.

Here are two fancy ways of describing the change that is taking place all around us along with my simple explanation.

Arnold Kling says this in his post, The Job-Seeker’s Paradox:

The paradox is this. A job seeker is looking for something for a well-defined job. But the trend seems to be that if a job can be defined, it can be automated or outsourced.

If we can create a specific list of the tasks you do, write down the judgments involved, and list the physical tools you use, then your job can be done by a PC or a robot at one-tenth the price or moved to Asia and done at one-fourth the price.  That is a serious problem.

He also says:

The marginal product of people who need well-defined jobs is declining. The marginal product of people who can thrive in less structured environments is increasing.

Using less complex words, that means for someone in a well-defined job, the value of their output next year will be worth less than the value of their output this year.  For someone in a creative or less structured or higher risk job, the value of their output next year will be higher than the value of their output this year.

That is bad news for someone in a well-defined job.  Your income will go down in the future.  If you even get to keep your job.

If you’re in an unstructured/creative/high-risk job the news is better. Your income will go up. You will get to keep your job. The downside is you will have to thrive in an unstructured environment.

Same concept is described in one sentence by Jim Manzi in his post Me, Inc. as he expands Mr. Kling’s point:

The way I have put this is that workers in our economy are in a race between development of as-yet-non-commoditized cognitive capabilities on one hand, and wage reductions as capabilities are commoditized through technological advances (broadly defined) on the other.

You can unpack that same way as Mr. Kling’s comments.  Everyone of us needs to find a space where we use our brain in an uncommoditized way.

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