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The idea of work, as in occupation or career as opposed to plethora of other meanings for the word, is a relative certainty in the scope of things that are traditionally questioned. And not whether to work or not to work, but the anatomy of the work itself. The blueprint is a one-to-one symbiotic relationship between employer and employee. To paint the picture, employee Jennifer works as an accountant for “X” company, and said company has piles of legal documents restricting what Jennifer can do outside of her work. When she wants to try something different, she has to tell company “X” that she no longer wants to work there, and go try and find company “Y.” In most cases the reason for the switch to company “Y” is a change in location, salary increase, or a subtle change of scenery for Jennifer, but more often than not companies “X” and “Y” are in the same industrial sphere, require similar skill sets, or are a logical progression of one another on some predefined “career arc.”

There is this idea circulating among society’s thought leadership, it is essentially that the rate of today’s technological improvement along with artificial intelligence, will create a robot utopia where humans are free to pursue their passions, hobbies, and creative outlets, because the robots will undertake the work of humans. Whether or not anything close to that ever comes to fruition remains to be seen, but it brings to light an essential piece of the human psyche under the current way society views work. People are beyond eager for new opportunities and experiences that go beyond the repetitiveness of a nine-to-five… with same company… in the same industry… for years on end. This isn’t a secret, people write about it everyday, but as a daily workaround or piece of patchwork for a doable existence, with this utopia as a beacon of hope at the end of a tunnel. What if instead of putting all of our faith in technological innovations, somebody questions the current makeup of work.

Quick tangent before the point. It is not realistic at this current moment in history to expect governments to replicate this idea of a robot utopia using a system such as a Universal Basic Income to replace work. The economy is still firmly driven by organizations (run by humans) ability to produce value for other humans, so while this idea of a government subsidy could be feasible down the road, technology in its current state is not at a level where it is reasonable to expect it to be a complete replacement of jobs.

As stated earlier, the current structure of work takes the form of a one employee to one company relationship. Obviously there are exceptions to the rule, but in a Marco-sense, this is the case (and obviously a company has many employees, but most people work for only one company). This really limits the scope of opportunities a person can experience while getting compensated for them. Fortune 500 companies around the world are just now realizing that there is more to work than whatever the organization’s bread and butter is, and it is valuable to a company to invest in a potpourri of extracurricular opportunities for its employees. These companies spend hundreds of millions of dollars on initiatives outside of the scope of business to ensure their employees get their fix of this “other.” Instead of relying on the organization to supply a work-life diversification of opportunities, what if it was on the person themselves to decide what they want to do. Crazy idea. Logically, it makes more sense this way, companies would protect their bottom lines more efficiently and employees would have more autonomy over what work they do.

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For example, Jennifer works as an accountant for a three years, becomes adrift at the repetitiveness of the job and her performance starts to slip. Instead of enduring fifteen more years of it she decides to go make a little less money mowing lawns for a couple of months, in order to get outdoors. And then after that job she decides she wants to go scoop ice cream for a local mom and pop shop while her kids are on summer break. Then maybe the time away reinvigorates her passion for accounting and why she got a degree in the first place. Or maybe she is done with accounting all together and wants to go learn to code Python and explore the technology field. Not that crazy, right?

The obvious rebuttal to that example and the point as a whole is that industries and companies will lose experienced individuals and expertise in their fields because growth is cultivated with time and repetition. While this is certainly true to a point, it is naive to think that established companies don’t have built in frameworks that make the machine run regardless of the expertise of the individual. With unlimited access to information online the learning curve to acquire new skills is at an all time low. People go to school to get a degree and become knowledgeable in a subject matter, and those same individuals have to spends months on end training once they get a job… only to decide after two years it is time for something else.

This idea is not a proposed solution to some current problem, but instead a gate to start looking at something that we take for granted in a different light. Just like Uber didn’t get rid of the need for owning a car, this won’t free people from spending their lives doing one job. There are very complicated questions that come with this idea (like compensation and retirement for example), but in a world trending toward liberalism and individual freedoms it might make sense to start questioning the anatomy of work and what made it this way.

-JM

I know as little as everyone else, but this keeps me from drinking every weekend. Denver, CO

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