Will you even be worth a job?

Will you even be worth a job?

Is your salary too small and your career development too slow?

Good. You’re probably worth it.

Of course you believe that you have ended up working for a penny-pinching paymaster who just happens to be exceptionally blind to your skills. We all believe were are entitled to better. It is humane, but at the same time, as a rule, just an illusion. Incompetent people tend to overestimate their abilities, but that’s another story. This article is about whether you as an individual are worth hiring at all.

During the last 10 years I’ve held quite a few job interviews and hired a three-digit number of employees. They have all worked for me, so I’ve been picky. Even though labor is redefining itself, there are a few fundamentals that will not change. The most important criteria for a good recruit have remained the same.

Most people that search for a new job and are already in the labor market are unsatisfied with their current situation. This can be a good sign. Dissatisfaction is a catalyst for all improvement.

The difference comes from whether the dissatisfaction is chronic or acute. The latter is a bad reason to leave a job, so I’ll only focus on the first mentioned: chronic dissatisfaction. From an employers point of view, there are two kinds of chronically unsatisfied people. Either one is unsatisfied with the work circumstances, or one is unsatisfied with the results of their work. And out of these two only one is desirable.

As a thumb rule, those who are chronically dissatisfied with the circumstances lack inner motivation and professionalism. They can’t be motivated in the long run and will never be satisfied. There will always be something that bothers them too much and distracts them from doing a good job.

Those who are chronically dissatisfied with the results of their work are almost, if not always, perfectionists. They motivate themselves by pursuing even better results and by doing so, also take responsibility of their own motivation. These are the kind of people everybody likes to work with, even if they’d outpace the rest of us in their career development. These people are the embodiment of the shibboleth “good things happen to those who do good.”

This is more important than ever, because Artificial Intelligence (AI) will be able to do most of the work that we do today.

It’s not just about computing power and Excel. Even the “hard-for-AI” jobs, those that require creativity, transparency or morale, will mostly be automatized. Besides composing music, AI can also paint in different styles and write fiction with a specific tone of voice.

I am often accused of being futuristic and painting a picture of a world that will only affect a small group of people. I admit that AI has composed zero Billboard hits and written zero bestsellers, so far. But already back in 2012 it was recognized that “Each step of the news production process can now be automated: ‘robot journalists’ can produce thousands of articles with virtually no variable costs.”

In practice, almost all the journalists working with economy, weather and sports could have been replaced five years ago. There’s no use for a mere reporter anymore.

Robots will not only replace you but even complement your human deficiencies.

Cars have for years been able to tell if you are tired. Volvo was the first one to launch their driver drowsiness detection ten years ago, in 2007. In the near future, your phone (or any other of your personal devices equipped with a microphone) will be able to detect symptoms of your early Alzheimer before the doctors do. AI will not only outplay you, but also point out your weaknesses.

Oh, but you’re educated so you can’t be replaced? I mean, of course doing academic background research is too complicated for a computer. You have to, umm, search relevant keywords from abstracts, navigate through topics, explore the papers and, like, combine and understand the points of convergence. Surely there will never be an AI for that? (Have you met Iris?)

The simple yet unpopular truth is that most of us won’t be needed in the future labor market.

I’ve written so much about AI [1] [2] [3] that this time I’ll just make a rhetorical question: When AI will be able to do abstract thinking, what will your competitive advantage be? When a machine can feel empathy and understand humor and has an endless computing power, what do you have to offer?

We are living in the middle of the second wave of AI and already seeing signs of the third wave. The third wave means that AI will be able to reason based on context and causality. But let’s not wander from the point. If you haven’t read my previous articles, there’s a video in the end of this article explaining this in an appreciable way.

When a machine can do whatever it is you do, but better, what will be your role?

Most likely the value of work will decline. This will take years, if not decades, but a working class hero will wither out and go extinct. This will lead to changes in the appreciation of an individual. Work will no longer define our value in the society and in the eyes of others.

It is inevitable that the human dignity, the value of an individual, will come from other accomplishments than traditional work. Nevertheless, it makes no difference whether a sense of fulfillment will come from working, doing public benefit social activities or making art, one thing will not change. Your attitude will still matter.

Nobody loves a complainer with no solutions. Those who only complain will have little to do in the future societies. Conversely – those who aim their energy into introducing new solutions will be more valued than ever. When there will be no need for traditional work, the way you are as a human being will have a bigger role than ever.

Prediction: we will see a rise of basic universal income.

Finland is already trialing a basic wage for everyone. It will solve a lot of the basic problems: social stability will be higher when nobody will be left out; bureaucracy will be lower when there’ll be less need for means-tested benefits (conditional welfare); accepting a job and thus having a higher employment rate will be easier when there will be less incentive traps; etc. But basic income will not guarantee that you’ll have something meaningful to do with your time.

The only way to maximize your desirability in the future society (whatever it may shape up to be) is to construct a feasible mindset. As cheesy as it may sound, but taking into account everything written above, all you will have is the way you are. Those with open mind, a can-do-mindset and a will to continually improve themselves and their surroundings, will inherit the Earth.

You shouldn’t worry about contemporary recognition, such as salary or career development. The world will keep on making progress whether you’re in or not. The only thing you should worry about is your attitude. Be chronically unsatisfied, in a good way.

 

PS.

The differences between the first, second and third waves of AI:

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