Humans are motivated by purpose.
So, why is it that our current economic infrastructure is built on survival? And, not purpose?
In 2009, Daniel H. Pink wrote a book on what motivates people to be high performers.
Hint: It’s not money.
After going through over four decades of scientific research, Pink’s book Drive concluded that there are 3 key factors needed in order for people to feel fulfilled in their jobs:
(1) Mastery — Are there opportunities for growth and learning?
(2) Autonomy — Is there freedom and control over their environment?
(3) Purpose — Are they doing something that matters to them?
So, how can we get more people into these types of positions? Ones that allow them to find personal fulfillment, while also contributing to their communities.
Well, it seems we are at a tipping point where this possibility is close to becoming a reality — but there will be some bumps along the way.
People are losing jobs to automation and this trend is accelerating. So far, most of these jobs are ones that [in robotics] are referred to as “dull and dangerous and dirty.” In short, they are the jobs that people could get, not the jobs that they wanted or dreamed of having. They are not jobs that provide workers individual fulfillment.
With these jobs disappearing, we have a unique opportunity to re-invent the way that our economy is structured. We can do this by shifting our economic priorities away from income-focused jobs and towards fulfillment-focused ones.
Here are some ideas outlined by Futurist, Peter Diamandis on the future of work.
Around 30 years ago, President Lyndon B. Johnson received a letter written by a group of top scientists and Nobel Laureates, addressing a collective concern that the country was on the verge of tremendous job loss.
Automation was being introduced and the group’s letter focused on the potential loss of jobs in the financial sector. Much of the industry was being staffed by people whose jobs could very easily be replaced by this incoming automation.
The group referred to this looming event as “technological unemployment.”
And, it never actually happened.
In fact, there are more people working in the financial sector now, than ever before.
So why should we be revisiting this subject now?
Well, technology is moving at a faster rate than ever before. People are losing jobs to automation and this is a trend that isn’t going to slow down.
The Future of Work
Many may see the loss of jobs as a bad thing, but it actually provides us with a massive opportunity — one which allows us to reimagine the entire economic structure and why we work.
This opportunity could provide us with a new future where people take jobs not to pay bills, but to fulfill their personal purpose in life. Jobs they love. Jobs that are meaningful [to them].
Pink already gave us the ingredients we need to build the type of workforce which produces high-performing, happy workers. And, with the integration of massive innovation across all industries, we are now in a position to create that workforce.
Think about why we have jobs today — to pay bills, own a car, a home, pay for education, and healthcare.
But, what if most of these things eventually became incredibly cheap? Even, free?
Well, that’s something that we’re already seeing in a number of different industries — a rush to demonetize things like energy, transportation, and other basic human needs.
Some of the things that are being demonetized already, include:
(1) Autonomous vehicles — The cost of operating a vehicle is expected to drop down to 4x less than it is today. Autonomous vehicles will eventually provide a chauffeur service that even the poorest people will have access to. They will also create opportunities for people to be more flexible about where they live.
For instance, those who prefer to live in more rural areas and don’t need to be in the city can choose to move further out (a concept that has turned into practice with many companies due to the rise of the pandemic). When there is a need to go into town, then their commute time can be used to nap, meditate, or read. The cars will take care of the rest.
(2) Energy — We are already seeing costs in this sector drop drastically. Solar energy has proven to be an incredible alternative to many of the more environmentally harmful sources we’ve used in the past. And, even better — it’s pretty much free. We just need to build the infrastructure to scale it.
A great example can be found in Brazil, where the cost of energy is currently 1.75/kWh. With solar resources in place, this should drop down to effectively net zero within the next decade.
And speaking of warm climates, many of the sunniest countries also happen to be the poorest ones. Having solar power available in excess means that these countries will eventually have access to abundant energy. With that abundant energy, will come abundant clean water.
This is obviously an incredible thing for a number of socio-economic reasons.
(3) Education and Healthcare — These will both eventually become free for everyone.
With all of these industries using technology to drive down the cost of living, we should also see a major reduction in the cost of basic needs.
However, people will still have some bills to pay. With significantly fewer jobs available, we’ll need to figure out how people can cover these bills.
Amazon CEO, Jeff Bezos has made the suggestion that companies introducing automation like robots, should be taxed. He pointed out that with the new efficiencies in place, these companies should see an uptick in productivity. With higher productivity, should come higher revenue.
And, all of this newly generated revenue could be taxed and used to fund programs like universal basic income.
Up-Skilling & Professional Re-Tooling
Universal basic income is absolutely the direction we are headed. And, this is great!
This doesn’t mean that everyone will be living in luxury, but basic needs should be met through these programs. And, by doing this, people can use their time to figure out what they would enjoy doing for work.
While this shift is happening, we do need to remember that people will still be facing some very real challenges.
Many people will be losing jobs. They will feel demoralized. It will be our work as entrepreneurs to help them re-discover their passions and create tools to guide them in a new direction. Purposeful direction.
Because, how people find purpose is very important.
Imagine this — You’ve lost your job. You’re feeling like you’re no longer a contribution to society. Even though the job you had wasn’t one that you loved, at least it gave you a reason to wake up every morning and go somewhere. Do something.
What if instead of going through this phase of hopelessness, people had a place to turn to where they could immediately find a new job? A place where they could test out ideas, try things they’ve always wanted to try, and eventually get trained and certified in a new occupation that they actually enjoyed doing.
This is a problem that technology could also be used to solve.
One technology that immediately comes to mind is virtual reality. This is a technology that is becoming hyper-realistic. One example is HTC’s new VR headset — it has built-in 4k resolution (2k per eye) technology. To put that into perspective, brain imaging is about 12k resolution.
Imagery in VR is probably still a few generations away from reaching photo-realism, but it will get there. When it does, putting on a pair of VR glasses will provide immersive experiences for users, which blur the lines between the tangible world and the world experienced in the virtual environment.
Because of this, VR will likely be a great solution to a problem like exploring different career options and up-skilling people for new occupations.
Here are some ways this could work:
(1) Gamifying Jobs — There are the jobs that people dreamed about having as a kid. And perhaps jobs they’ve just always just wanted to try out. Even for a day.
What if there were ways to make this process fun?
People could try jobs in a VR experience that they’ve always been interested in. Then, once they’ve found the occupation they enjoy, they would be given the opportunity to stick with the game — performing tasks and learning skills directly applicable to that job. Once they win the game, they then become qualified to work in that profession.
(2) Skills Overlay — Imagine people could just start going into factories or locations and doing jobs that they knew nothing about. They could use VR glasses as a way to guide them through the process of performing specialized tasks.
In this case, humans become the automation.
This idea works two-fold — humans generate income performing tasks while gaining the skills needed to eventually become employable in a new field.
Consider this shift in the career training model like this:
The old model required people to watch one, do one, teach one.
The new model will allow people to do one, do one, learn one, graduate.
One skill that people will need to be very good at, is collaboration.
Almost all jobs over the next decade are going to require some level of AI-human collaboration.
For example, in medicine, it will likely be considered malpractice within the next 5–6 years not to use AI for diagnosing a patient.
Why? Because AI will have all of the information needed for a diagnosis, as well as additional information (including thousands of articles written in the last 24 hours). The level of accuracy and access to resources that AI will possess will simply be impossible for human doctors to keep up with.
In law, we’ll see the same thing happen.
Even in the art world, we’re already witnessing award-winning symphonies, scripts, and stories being written by AI.
This technology is only going to become more sophisticated.
In fact, according to predictions made by my Singularity U Co-Founder, Ray Kurzweil, AI should reach human-level intelligence sometime in the year 2029.
Within a year of this, AI will surpass human intelligence.
When this happens, AI will be able to interact with humans better than humans can interact with humans.
And, AI will beat humans. At everything.
We’re already seeing this in the gaming arena, where AIs consistently take on humans and win. Games like chess, real estate investing, and the stock market, are all ones that AI has an efficiency, speed, and resource advantage over humans in.
Even though AI will continue winning against humans, it should be through AI-human collaboration where we will see the most extraordinary things emerge. AI alone won’t be able to beat these collaborations.
This is because humans bring to the table something that AI can’t: intuition.
Therefore, AI-human collaborations will continue to be more meaningful than AI alone.
Daniel Pink wrote, “It is our nature to seek purpose. But that nature is now being revealed and expressed on a scale that is demographically unprecedented and, until recently, scarcely imaginable. The consequences could rejuvenate our businesses and remake our world.”
Pink has given us the roadmap. Now, it’s time for entrepreneurs, visionaries, and creators to envision and build it.
Adapted from Peter Diamandis’ ideas on The Future of Work.