Governments measure their success by employment levels. It does not question if they jobs add value to people’s lives. At best, they look at lower wage versus high wage jobs as a way to measure “good” jobs. This all props up a bubble economy where it is expected that wages can keep going up, profits can keep going up and production continues to find new things to make and sell, even if not needed, just to support jobs and profits. It is all a bubble because when this system was developed, automation, technology and robotics were not even thought of yet.
The key to government success is to hid the bubble for as long as possible because the economy cannot go through an instant transition to greater automation and less jobs without messing everything up. And the idea we can just stop the advancement is silly. Do we want more work that is meaningless? Would you like to work 16 hour days doing things no one cares about? Of course not – so why 8 hours?
The premise of this article is as follows. A value-adding job is a job that needs to be done to make people’s lives better (beyond the worker and business) and the job cannot be eliminated by automation or by simplifying systems. Jobs for jobs sake are not acceptable and by reducing non-value-adding employment people can reduce hours worked per week, make a higher wage for value-adding work and spend more effort simplifying systems and improving automation to reduce work even more. This leads to an abundant life for all people where work is more meaningful and life more pleasurable. But the transition is not easy and no one wants to talk about it.
To begin to address this issue, I have created the following quadrant graph to help you analyze the value-adding level of jobs. Keep in mind there will be some human skew as you analyze this, as we all tend to overvalue the jobs we have and undervalue the jobs other people may do. For this reason I will go through the rankings as well as go through examples of jobs and how to assess value.
Keep in mind this is general. A high value-adding job done poorly does not have an impact for that particular individual doing the job. And a lower value-adding job done by someone who adds an element of fun can take a low value job and make it entertaining for people. Assume this is for judging the job and not judging the people doing the job.
The X Axis – Need For Humans To Do Work
The X Axis is if a job needs to be done by humans. In other words, it cannot be automated, done by robots, systematized in software and AI. A 7, the highest value, is a job that requires human creativity, non-linear problem solving and has a high degree of variability based on each given situation. Improvements in AI will continue to push jobs down this scale as AI improves creativity and critical thinking but it will take the longest.
A 4 on the X scale would represent a job that cannot be eliminated at this time but is on the cusp of elimination in the next few years, such as drivers or cashiers.
Below 4 on the x axis represents jobs that can currently be eliminated if systems were changes or automation that currently exists could do the majority of the job. These jobs are being maintained for the sake of employment, not out of necessity for the greater good. Sometimes they simply remain human jobs because humans are cheaper than automation.
The Y Axis – Positive Impact On Population
The other items that defines how much a job is value-adding is the actual value it adds to the population. This is critical to understand. The value cannot be to the employees (although being able to support yourself is important) and it cannot be the value that owners and shareholders. The value must be to the people it serves.
A 7 on this scale is high value services provided to the community. Clean energy production would be a 7 while older, more harmful forms of energy production would be a 4. Both important, but the value increases when there is more positive and less negative impact. For example, producing healthy food at affordable prices is a 7 and selling food that reduces the health of the population (despite brief pleasure from eating the bad food) is in the 2-3 area.
Currently we have many 1’s and 2’s in the form of unnecessary items that are produced. This includes dangerous or unhealthy things that have a negative impact as well. Obvious examples are cigarettes, drugs, fast food, many junk foods, sports that are likely to cause long term harm to players, junk mail and many other items that are simply produced as a novelty but have no actual serious value.
Goods and services on the Y axis can also impact a lot of people or few people but impact them deeply. Hospice care may not impact the broad population but is deeply impactful for those that need the service. Sports and entertainment may not last a long time as people consume the media or event for pleasure, but it can impact many people by adding enjoyment and quality of life to people’s existence.
Here are some Job Examples and How They Rank (My option)
- General Physician – A general physician is a high value job as it impacts the health of the population. No one would dispute this as being a crucial job. However, general physicians often ask a series of questions, do a quick checkup and order a few tests. They then prescribe medicine or send someone to a specialist. This can already be done with a high degree of accuracy with AI. Taking the doctor out of this role would lower costs, increase access to healthcare and could be used in a more preventative way. Imagine the AI has almost no cost – why not do monthly wellness checkups to catch issues earlier and work with the patient on preventative measures?For this reason, while specialists might be a 7 on the impact scale, we deem a general physician a 5 Impact, 4 Need. The reason for the lower scores is simply we can have better, cheaper services in the near future by eliminating the human in this initial evaluation. This is not reflective of more specialized healthcare services which may take more detective work.
- Taxi Driver – This position is the poster child for the disruptive future’s impact on jobs. Not only in the short term have rideshare apps made it possible for people to provide the service without the expense, but in a few years driverless cars will eliminate the position completely. It is a valuable service – but better systems have lowered the cost and improved the service. For this reason we give it a 3 Impact, 4 Need and we deem it on the cusp of becoming extinct.
- Federal Politician – Federal politicians often spend their time blaming others and fighting. Rarely do we see them having a common cause and a clear vision of a better future for the people they serve. While there are exceptions to this, we need to rank the baby with the dirty bath water. Archaic voting and government management practices are only maintained in order to keep the job holders in power. For this reason, we rank 3 Impact, 4 Need (same as a taxi driver) as the value-adding aspect of federal elected officials. Better systems, clear vision and removal of special interests can reduce or eliminate the need for federal elected officials. Automated systems and AI with clear goals can greatly improve the workings of the government. The toxic nature of the current group along with their inability to have a common cause and vision would make it a 1 in need if not for the fact that some people do try to do good work and make a difference.
- City Politician – Unlike federal elected officials, local politicians are more hands on when it comes to making an impact on the people they serve. Sure there is still fighting and problems, but they are able to serve people as a local project manager for a wide array of issues. Federal is systematized and does not need people once cleaned up. Local will always have more of a human aspect, assessing ways to improve the community and prioritizing projects based on happiness of local people, not monolithic systems. For this reason, I rate 7 Impact, 6 Need.
- Garbage Collector – While not a glamorous job, the importance cannot be underestimated. However, we have already seen portions of the job automated with robotic arms. The job is not going to go away but humans doing the job will disappear once trucks can safely self drive and collect and they have an external cleanup apparatus can take care of spills. For this reason, we rank 7 Impact, 4 Need.
- Tax Accountant – This job exists because of systems that are complex and maintained so in order to justify an industry. The fact is, a simple flat tax on all money transfers would eliminate most accounting jobs and those that are not eliminated would be automates in a simpler system. For this reason, we rank 2 Impact, 2 Need. While necessary in the current system, preserving the system for the sake of employment and uneven financial benefits to the wealthy do not add value to the population.
- Comedian – This of course depends on if she is funny or not. But let’s take an average comedian as an example. While AI will be able to entertain us, there is always going to be the more unpredictable aspect of watching a human try to entertain us. The fact that they might fall flat on their face is half the fun. And as we eliminate more non-value adding jobs, everyone will have more free time and need more projects and entertainment. For this reason, I rank a (funny) comedian a 6 Impact, 7 Need as they cannot be replaced by the very fact that we want to see live humans doing things.
- Psychologist – I have read where people predict psychology will be one key area that is not automated or influenced by AI. However, considering we are currently able to monitor engagement and emotions as people learn, an AI that can know what we are thinking and feeling better than a person is certainly possible eventually. With that in mind, I rank Impact a 7 because it is critical to the patient and also can help the greater community by having happier, more grounded members. And I rank 5 for need as it is needed for the foreseeable future but down the road AI and big data will augment and eventually overtake a human psychologist in many interactions.
- Trail Guide – While the future will continue to be more high tech, there will also be more people who want to unplug and have an experience away from tech. This will make jobs like trail guides, river guides, Sherpas and similar jobs in demand in the future. Sure an app can help guide you on the trail, but part of the unplugging experience is having a real human do it. For this reason, we rank this type of job a 6 Impact, 6 Need because experiential events helping people get back to nature will be in high demand.
This entire grid and article is just a general reference. Technology is changing fast and things that may be a 6 today might turn to a 3 overnight with a new advancement.
This article also does not discuss the jobs of the future. However, it does provide a basic framework to think about what may be in more high demand later on. The real key is to get beyond the idea of creating jobs for jobs sake and looking at how much a job provides social value to the recipients of the products and services and begin the process of migrating people from non-value-adding jobs to higher-value-adding jobs. If we do not need as many people working, that is fine. We can cut what is full time hours and provide basic income for people to be sure no one is left behind. With the lack of jobs and basic income providing minimal support, it will be up to that local, city politician to keep people busy and involved in the local community. Maybe they should be a 7,7.
This is not just the future. This is the past as well. It has been happening for many years as industries go from valuable to obsolete. The only difference now is we are seeing exponential change in many industries and that is why the jobs bubble will break soon if we do not begin to plan for an entirely different model of employment and social values.