The new gig economy and what it means for finding jobs with livable wages

We live in the new age of the globalized gig economy. It’s not the 1950’s anymore. Capitalist businesses have a fiduciary responsibility to optimize their spending dollar for investors and stockholders. That also means that businesses are attempting to automate every aspect of the business that is feasible. Likewise, that means that general labor jobs are going to go away. So, how are we going to create new jobs for those displaced workers to earn a livable wage? That’s where the gig economy fits in.

Automation has its limits. We aren’t going to replace jobs that require human interaction and complex problem-solving. Sure, we can build robots to flip hamburgers, self-driving vehicles to transport truckloads of goods, and kiosks that replace restaurant waiters and hosts, but when you have an issue or a question about a business, you are going to want to speak to a living, breathing human. Likewise, businesses need people to figure out problems. That needed human interaction element and required sense of empathy will never go away.

Let’s take writers for example. AI machines are already used by the Associated Press to write articles that report on things like the stock market and sports. Machines can easily write a classic journalist piece that answers the who, what, where, why, when and how. What machines can’t do is analyze the impact of a story on society or offer their opinion. Writers will always be needed to write quality work that analyzes topics that affect our society. Machines can be used for data mining, but they can’t predict sociological impacts.

Likewise, machines can’t perform complex tasks in uncontrolled environments for the sake of convenience.  Let’s look at the mobile services industry for an example. Let’s say that someone needs a laptop or a cell phone repaired in their home or at their place of work. We can create robots to repair and assemble laptops in controlled environments easily. Many manufacturing facilities have been using robots to build things like cars and houses (yes, houses…) in factories for decades. Those factories have extremely controlled environments where engineers can control every imaginable variable. You can’t control the chaos of an unknown environment. It’s going to take a human to navigate through those complex problem-solving situations to perform a task. Of course, simply going to someone’s house to fix a laptop or repair a broken faucet may seem mundane to a human, but robots are going to have a hard time with that.

Don’t think that lawyers are safe either. Most of our legal system is for the large part automated already. It’s the nature of laws and regulation. Routine jobs like creating subpoenas or legal contracts are for the large part automated tasks. It’s just that humans write and deliver those documents instead of robots. As I said, though, the AP is already using learning machines to write sports news stories. Lawyers could easily be replaced by these same machines. What robots can’t do is mediate a nasty divorce, though. That’s going to take a human to perform that complex and chaotic task.

I’ve only touched on a few examples here. Over the next 20 years, our normal and routine tasks will be automated by machines. What that means is that businesses will largely only employ specialized workers that are regularly needed to operate the business. So, while businesses may employ fewer people, they will always need one-off specialized tasks performed. That’s where the gig economy comes in. People are going to be able to be more specialized at a specific things. Everyone has their specialties, including general laborers. Instead of performing those routine tasks in a fixed setting, those workers will be able to sell their skills to various businesses and individuals in need. Whole industries are going to be built around gig marketplaces to help these people find freelance gigs.

We are definitely going to experience a dramatic shift in our society with how we employee people. AI and robots are going to change the way we think about employment. This shift has the potential to bring people back into the workforce, though, and let people earn a more respectable wage.

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