The idea is spreading….

This post on Seth Godin’s blog, (thanks Instapundit!)  goes right to the heart of what we discuss here….that the old “jobs” based economy has gone.  It’s a good read, and the ending couldn’t ring truer to me:

” No one is demanding that we like the change, but the sooner we see it and set out to become an irreplaceable linchpin, the faster the pain will fade, as we get down to the work that needs to be (and now can be) done. This revolution is at least as big as the last one, and the last one changed everything.”

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13 Comments

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13 responses to “The idea is spreading….

  1. amba12

    “This represents a significant discontinuity, a life-changing disappointment for hard-working people who are hoping for stability but are unlikely to get it. … a revolution of connection.” He sounds like you!

  2. amba12

    “When everyone has a laptop and connection to the world, then everyone owns a factory. Instead of coming together physically, we have the ability to come together virtually, to earn attention, to connect labor and resources, to deliver value.

    “Stressful? Of course it is. No one is trained in how to do this, in how to initiate, to visualize, to solve interesting problems and then deliver. Some see the new work as a hodgepodge of little projects, a pale imitation of a ‘real’ job. Others realize that this is a platform for a kind of art, a far more level playing field in which owning a factory isn’t a birthright for a tiny minority but something that hundreds of millions of people have the chance to do.

    “Gears are going to be shifted regardless. In one direction is lowered expectations and plenty of burger flipping… in the other is a race to the top, in which individuals who are awaiting instructions begin to give them instead.”

  3. wj

    Perhaps a way to look at this is to ask: Why do we want to have a job? I can see two major motivations:

    1) Survival. That is, we all need some source of income which will allow us to obtain the necessities of life. A job is the traditional way to get that income. But not the only one — witness those who, for lack of a better term, are the “idle rich.” I submit that, so long as you have sufficient income (or wealth, as long as drawing it down will not leave you at zero), you don’t care, from a survival perspective, where the money comes from.

    2) Accomplishment. Many of us want to feel like we are accomplishing something. A paying job is one of the common ways to get that feeling. Not all jobs provide that; some people don’t like what they are doing, but do it to survive. However, there are unpaid ways to get the same feeling.

    For half of mankind, prior to the end of this century, that might be maintaining a home and raising the children. Not (formally) paid, but you knew you had accomplished something. To take another obvious example, consider those retirees who move into volunteerism. They aren’t getting paid, but they get a good feeling from what they do.

    Once we split the motivations, the question becomes: can we afford to provide the necessities of life for everyone, whether they work or not? At the moment, I believe not. But whether that will always be true….

    And then, if we can do that, is it possible to provide most people with something that they can feel like they are accomplishing? We don’t necessarily have to provide that for everybody. After all, jobs don’t currently provide that for everybody either. And some people seem perfectly happy doing nothing more than watching TV or playing computer games. (Side note, do computer games really count here? Given that some people seem to get great satisfaction out of “accomplishing” good results in them.) Or reading, or learning new things, or taveling — just to take some things that I could actually enjoy doing, even if they don’t result in accomplishment.

    I think we have to achieve the first goal, even if jobs mostly go away. Otherwise, things turn ugly fast It’s the second goal will make the most of the difference between whether we “like” the new world or not. (I say “most of the difference,” because some people just don’t like change, no matter what it’s benefits.)

    • kngfish

      wj, first, thanks for a thoughtful response! Whether we like it or not, I wonder if work and accomplishment will splinter further. If most of us had a revenue stream that let us live as we do now….how many people would feel the need to ‘work’? Accomplishment is another question; but we set that in our mind and heart yes?

  4. wj

    What we find to be an “accomplishment” is certainly very much a personal matter. Witness the people who are delighted to have “accomplished” (in their hobby, say) something that I can’t imagine being interested in, let alone trying to do.

    But as I think about it, I think I may have omitter a third major motivation — something else that people get from jobs. (My defense is that I personally don’t see it as overwhelmingly important. Which is probably why I don’t have a problem with telecommuting.)

    For a lot of people, I think work is an important part of their social life. The on-going face-to-face interaction with others is important to them. That is the reason that they may find retirement much lass wonderful than they had expected — they miss the people that they worked with. Obviously, there are other places where someone can get that kind of interaction. But judging from the struggle a lot of retirees seem to have, replacing it is a non-trivial exercise.

    • kngfish

      Ah, wj, but work is to social life what the draft was to our commitments as citizens. There were a lot of virtures to the draft; you have to learn to work with people from other parts of the country, with the greater goal of not getting killed, and you get to see a big, occasionally dysfunctional governmental structure first hand. Work provides similar virtues!

      But we’ve ultimately rejected the idea of a draft; the military is now composed of people who choose to go, and are not forced to go. Whatever social virtues work may have, at the end we prefer the responsibility of our own choosing, whom we interact with, not tied in with how you make a living. Hmmm….maybe we are unconsciously pushing work away for that reason?

      • wj

        I quite agree. However, the fact that there are lots of other opportunities, and arguably better ones, to socialize does not mean that many people would not have to make a big adjustment to cope. Some of us might prefer to choose our own firends, but are we really typical?

        Work, after all, provides a ready-made opportunity to socialize. You are regularly in the company with a distinct set of other people. Everybody shows up reasonably consistently — some outages for vacations and such, and some churn as new employees arrive and old ones depart, but the overall pattern generally is steady. And everybody has something built-in in common: the place that they work and the institution that they work for. All of which give social interaction a jump-start.

        Of course, there was a time when most people did not work for companies, and worked with only a handful of other people. At that time, there was another standard venue for social interaction: the church. (I am minded of a comment of one of the friends of my youth. He noted that, if he moved to a new town and wanted to meet people, the first thing he would do is to join a church — even though he was not particularly religious.)

        In fact, it occurs to me that the apparent secularization of Western society might owe something to the fact that work started to provide an alternative social venue. That is, it isn’t that people have become less religious. It’s just that those who were never all that religious now have much less incentive to attend a church anyway. And so the churches are down to their actual core of the religiously inclined. (Or perhaps one should say, of those inclined to organized religion.)

        Losing that social venue would then be expected to lead to the creation (or, more likely, expansion) of some other structural institution for socializing. I confess I have no idea what that might be, but I think it would necesssarily arise. Then again, the churches might see a rennaissance in attendence as the social need increased again.

  5. kngfish

    Perhaps the Internet is sort of filling that void? People are more mobile, or at least see themselves as more mobile, and they are connecting more and more through means electronic not religious or employment based. I wonder how many people are finding their spouses this way now? Not even referring to ‘online dating’, but some web of connections that is primarily built by ‘social networking’ means? Is anyone keeping stats on ‘marriages where people first met on Facebook’? Don’t laugh! It may wind up being more significant than we think!

    As long as I’m being guinea pig ( or the Mad Scientist Who Experiments On Himself!) if I meet the right girl, I’ll have a Twitter Wedding! Vows take less than 140 characters, right? ‘You may RT the Bride’

    Get to work my Ascii Yentas!

  6. wj

    The idea of “meeting” people electornically is very seductive. But no matter how many e-mails you exchange, or how many phone calls you make, it just isn’t the same thing. In my experience, you can build a much closer relationship (professional or personal) if you can meet face-to-face, at least occasionally.

    Some years ago, the company that I worked for moved their data center from the San Francisco area to Phoenix. About half of my team was in each location, but all of the computer Operations people were, necessarily, in Phoenix. I used to fly down every 3-4 months, just to be able to spend some time hanging out in Operations. (I should point out, for those not in the business, that there is a very strong informal heirarchy in IT. Operations people get no respect for Systems Programmers. They know almost as much; and a lot more about what is actually going on currently. But they find it almost impossible to get anyone to listen tothem, absent a formal problem.)

    Did it make a difference? Absolutely. Because the operators knew me personally, if I called and asked for something informally, I got it. If they saw something a bit odd, even though it wasn’t actually a problem yet, they would call and tell me. Neither of which happened with the folks on my team who didn’t do that. (On their side, if there was something that made their jobs harder, they could call and get me to get it fixed.)

    It was sufficiently useful that my manager started trying to get the rest of the team to do the same. Without success, I’m afraid. Even with those whose desks were only a couple dozen yards from the the door to Operations. (Did I mention the heirarchy in IT jobs?)

    The point being, just being around, and able to chat casually, builds a relationship. I suppose that these kinds of blogs can serve somewhat the same function. But how much better do you know someone after a single in-person visit that you did even after years of reading and commenting on each other’s blogs?

    We may be able to initiate relationships electronically. And that can broaden our horizons, especially geographically. But to really build something, you really do need to be there in person. IMHO

  7. kngfish

    wj, I think you misunderstand my point. I’m not saying the electronic is a substitute for personal interaction. I’m curious to find out how much the electronic infrastructure helps people find each other (yes, to actually meet in person!) that would otherwise would not have met at all! I don’t have an answer to that….I’m just curious.

  8. Well, here’s an example: Annie lived four blocks away from me for many years–and she’s back again–and I didn’t know her until I was a regular visitor to her blog.

    And back in 1996, even though I had a steady job in an ad agency, once I discovered the Internet and e-mail lists I ended up socializing with more people online than I did in my office. And some of those people I later met in person, and they’re still a part of my online and “real” life many years later.

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