What’s your job even mean anymore? We recommend you read this article to find out. However, much like “42,” this answer won’t make sense until you ask the right questions. So, let’s take a look at what’s going on around us.
Skilled Laborers Wanted
As technology changes our world, we have new needs. Namely, we need to reevaluate our skills. Not just the skills themselves, but our notion of skills in general. Customer service bots, self-driving vehicles, and even algorithm-designed iPhone cases give a hint of what skills we don’t need, and what jobs we are losing. And that’s scary for many people. Naturally, there are some attempts to quell the fear surrounding changing structure. Like Bill Gates’ idea that we should tax working robots. But only taking into consideration the jobs lost— or even the productivity gained—fails to see the bigger picture. As with every advance in automation of the past, we’re transforming what kind of jobs we have rather than deleting them outright. Many of these ideas to keep our fear of the future at bay keep people and bots separate. But what if we were to unite bots with the people overseeing them? Imagine: the bot presents you with a nice, predictable output, and then it’s your job as a human to shape that output into the best product it can be for the consumer. It would mean the end of “T-shaped skills” and the beginning of “+ shaped skills.”
As jobs change, we are scrubbing out the blue and white from our collars and letting future employees just be blank collar ones. Traditional “T-shaped” jobs (in which an employee is specialized in one area, but has only general knowledge about other areas) are being uprooted. Automation and AI are taking over all of that task-by-task, day-by-day. In contrast, we’re seeing the development of “+ shaped” skills. In workplaces that operate based on a “+ shaped” skill set, all work below the line is done by automation, and all the work above the line is done by the human. Anything that is uncreative and non-essential to defining your work role lies below the line. Your timesheets, repetitive tasks, low-level communications—the stuff that gets in the way of what your actual job description is. Everything above that line? That’s what us humans need to do. Skills of future jobs center around processes that help us turn our output into something valuable: overseeing production, explaining and discussing output with coworkers and clients, and innovating our own job responsibilities. You’ll need to identify and communicate with other specialized employees. You’ll need creativity, humanity, and empathy. This is where the revolution in company structure must happen to avoid shrinking into obscurity. It’s the difference between the second wave of automation and the third wave. It’s the difference between an employed future and an unemployed one.
The Blank Collar Equation
We need a formula to find the ideal placement of this skill baseline along the + or T. This line can’t be drawn on an industry or company basis, but job-by-job. After we lay down this line, employees will be responsible for (and compensated for!) their entire output. And they won’t be laid off when one of their tasks is taken over by automation. By tweaking the use of AI, companies of the future single employee. Sorry, Bill, we don’t have to tax robots to stay employed. We simply have to remember that at the end of every robot, there’s a human. That’s the difference between white, blue, and blank collar workers—and the difference between a human-lead economy and a robot-lead one.