The Brutal Facade of Tomorrow
In 30 years from now, every 'traditional' employable industry will be dead.
Think that's extreme? Read on.
On 21st Feb, 2012, Airtasker was launched. A simple idea, conceived and created by co-founders Tim Fung (CEO) and Jonathan Lui (COO). Airtasker is a simple concept: a shared local community of people are seeking outsourcing of everyday tasks, and that same shared local community of people are able to opt undertake those tasks. Today, Airtasker is the latest soon-to-be-business-behemoth in a series of apps (Uber, AirBnB, Zipcar, Amazon drones, etc...) with an astonishingly simple premise, executed brilliantly, designed to simplify life in the 21st century.
Why have 10,000 local business websites designed to individually attract one particular service that those businesses specialise in, when everyone can log on to a single app and access an individual specialist in a field who is unanimously rated as being an excellent service provider? Or, in the same app, can hire someone to do laundry quickly, simply and safely?
First came corporatism. Then came social media. Now comes automation.
Google, SpaceX, Amazon and Apple are all working on self-driving cars. I use 'working on' loosely, because as Elon Musk has publicly stated: "...Self-driving cars are a solved problem." The technology is here, tested, and in some cases, deployed. We are simply waiting for the bureaucratic process to catch up, and then self-driving cars will be commonplace, replacing 85% or more of the auto industry overnight. These cars will be electric, so oil demand will plummet along with the jobs of tens of millions of employee's in those industries. This is only a few years away.
There are 3D sensors already in alpha-phase testing within existing big-name grocery store chains able to recognise when an item is removed from the shelf, update the stock levels in the grocery database in real-time, restock the shelf automatically, and have electronic 'ticket' rails update pricing instantaneously, thus getting rid of the need for two thirds of the shelf-stackers, half of the major marketing divisions and all checkout staff.
Recently, I talked to someone (whos' name I won't mention for anonymity) who founded a very well respected firm that's working on the cutting edge of facial recognition software. This software is able to identify a persons face when they walk into a store, and from that facial recognition data they are able to instantly access databases compiled using various collections of websites cookies' and form a personality profile. With this information, implemented into large data, they are able to get a horrifyingly accurate read on the demographic of people shopping in their clients stores. This person told me, on last testing, the facial recognition error percentage clocked in at less than 0.01%.
And there goes the remainder of your marketing, advertising, inventory analysis and sales divisions for almost any non-electronic product.
The list goes on.
The age of traditional western economy is coming to a close, and fast. Those who don't make it on to the 'tech-train' will be left behind, unless they're already so fat with cash they can afford to buy their way in at the top.
The bulk of our employable industries are currently centred around productivity; a task soon to be left to robots. But what about our more elitist professions? Surely the most highly respected jobs of doctors, lawyers and executives will be safe for generations to come?
A little longer, yes, but certainly not for generations. Despite what any baby boomer may vehemently argue about with regards to people being irreplaceable in certain complex or moral situations, that is only true whilst the weightings of morality and certain algorithms that define humanity's values don't yet exist. More than likely, AI will determine those algorithms through machine-learning.
Around the corner is the age where results of automated full-body scans can and will diagnose humans better than doctors. Legal transcripts, coupled with a digital profile of an alleged criminal and all known legislation and precedents can easily be fed in to an AI system and analysed with a correct result, free from human error, in precious nanoseconds.
Unmanned flight is infinitely safer than manned flight, as much as people won't trust it yet. Print journalism is all but dead and has turned digital to desperately cling onto relevance in a world overrun with 24/7 social media posts, presidents calling real journalists fake news and youtube footage. The financial sector is increasingly being automated. IFTTT has provided an individual user-driven way for people who don't know code to automate so many online services it's ridiculous (think: post one item to Facebook, and it then automatically posts on Instagram and twitter, then sends a snapchat, then notifies the poster of any retweets with an email and iPhone or android badge notification).
The age of traditional supply and demand of currency is done. Elon Musk has talked about globalisation of economies eradicating the idea of state-controlled currency and the need for a universal currency in its place to combat the inevitable spiral that automation and AI will accommodate (think: bitcoin/ethereum - which I will write a separate post about in the coming weeks).
Right now, as touched upon by the founders of Airtasker, we are in a phase of transition between corporate worlds and whatever comes after it. An age of excess of the rich, denigration of the poor but with a surge in technology that is leading to communal based services where those with excess can provide to those who want access and forgoing corporate models. For example: Uber - provides a global, easily accessible service usable anywhere, and cheaper and simpler than taxi's. Airbnb- A way for those with extra rooms or housing to provide cheaper, easily accessible accomodation for those who want it. Again, global, trusted and simple. Airtasker - the epitome of simplification for any task, anywhere, anytime, ever - for a cheaper price. In built in to all of these apps are accountability (ratings and logged tracking for safety), demand-driven prices in the purest form (if 100 people are wanting laundry services and only 10 are providing it, how much do laundry-doers start making?), and simplicity at its core. But this is only a transitional phase. A point in time where those lucky few who have recognised opportunities that lie outside corporate models are cashing in on traditional services provided better than conglomerates can adapt to.
What will come after all this change takes place? Who knows. One thing is for sure - the facade we're all taught growing up that working hard and knuckling down in our traditional roles for someone else is no longer the lucrative, or smart option. The scary idea is that all this could very well lead to a crippling depression and deflation like the world has never seen - but that's a glass half empty outlook. The optimistic view, from where I stand, is a world where very little 'base level' work will need to done by humans. I could foresee a world in the not too distant future where machines are essentially catering for our paradise and we are left to enjoy life for what it was meant to be: life. Family, Friends and Fun could once again take precedence in our priority list and the overwhelming pressures for success, meaning and achievement could take a back seat.
But of course - I myself would struggle to live without a purpose, and I myself am always looking to achieve. That's why I'm writing a blog at 1am on a Monday morning on a new website, after spending half a day coding a separate app, with my real day job beginning in 6 hours (and just to be clear: I enjoy my day job too).
I suspect many people are the same.
That base primal urge and essential desire to be 'recognised' and 'needed' is certainly strong in the majority of the western world - it may even be the downfall of paradise.
Either way - there are more opportunities in the world right now to jump aboard the side-business train than ever before. Blogs, self-composed music, YouTube film making, or simply taking an existing idea and making it better through a simplified presence - these are all easily achievable goals compared to the old days and can provide a valuable outlet and some pocket money (or hell, even replace your day job). My advice right now, during this fundamental transition stage, is to do something, nay, ANYTHING to ignite a passion or interest within yourself and to work on that, if only a little. Improve on it a little every day and branch out for yourself, until you realise that branch is something other people want to explore and you've created a valuable idea to offer others. It may be nothing but knowledge, or a world-changing app. It may be simply that you've found an amazing method of motivation. Whatever it is doesn't matter, just do it. Ideas, discipline and willpower will be the currency of the now into the future.
Opportunity lives exclusively outside your comfort zone. There are more doors to walk outside that zone than ever. Choose one, or create your own, and live how we were meant to live.