“We are being afflicted with a new disease of which some readers may not yet have heard the name, but of which they will hear a great deal in the years to come—namely, technological unemployment.” This might sound like something said relatively recently, but it was in fact said almost 100 years ago by noted economist John Maynard Keynes. Of course, today you can’t turn on the news or read an article online without hearing about the impact that technology might have on the future of work.
There are in fact many scenarios for the future of work. One of them involves robots and AI taking all of our jobs leaving us to wander the streets with pitchforks and shotguns like a scene from The Walking Dead. If you’re a fan of dystopian science fiction then this might be right up your alley.
However, another more utopian scenario sees us living in a world of abundance where we have access to all of the resources and support we need and where we actually work less and have bots and software handle most of the menial tasks that we don’t enjoy doing. We also receive a Universal Basic Income which guarantees us a fixed stipend every month regardless of if we do any work or not. Life is great!
But in that kind of a world what role do we as humans actually play? For many of us “work” isn’t just something we do to make money, it’s something that contributes to our identity and sense of self. If you just give someone money yet take away their ability to contribute, to create, and to identify with something that they do, then is that really a scenario we want to see happen? Let’s assume for a moment that this is the definite future that will happen, what’s your plan? Are you going to just hang out at home and watch TV all day?
In this kind of a world what becomes most important is our ability to think creatively and to be human, to solve complex problems and challenges, to explore the unexplored, to think about the unthinkable, and to experiment. In short there are three things you can do:
- Think like an entrepreneur
Entrepreneurs are scrappy; they find solutions to difficult problems and don’t wait for someone to give them permission to take action. In fact, they would rather ask for forgiveness than ask for permission. Entrepreneurs see opportunity and they marshal together the resources to take advantage of that opportunity. This will be an invaluable skill in a jobless future.
- Understand your passions
What makes you tick and gets you excited? In a jobless future where you don’t need to work it’s the people who are self-aware and understand their passions that are going to be the most fulfilled. These are the people who will have that sense of purpose and drive to take action. We all have passions and things that get us excited, do you know what yours are?
- Be curious
Children are inherently curious. They take things apart just to see how they work (and oftentimes break them!). They ask questions and are constantly seeking information. Curiosity is a powerful driving force which allows us to discover things. This is why Google famously allowed their employees to spend 20% of their work time focusing on their “pet projects.” In fact, this is what led to some of Google’s most successful products including Adsense. Give yourself time to explore, to wonder, to break things, and to ask questions. Do this now so that when the jobless future arises you will be prepared.
Nobody knows if the jobless future will indeed come to fruition. But if it does, having that sense of purpose, mission, and drive will be the most important thing in your life. Focus on the three things above and you will always have a “reason for being.”
Jacob Morgan is a three time best-selling author, keynote speaker and futurist who explores the future of work and employee experience. Jacob is also the creator of The Future of Work University and "The Future If" Community. You can learn more about Jacob and get access to his blog, podcast, video series and research by visiting www.thefutureorganization.com.