The future of jobs might be no jobs

Recently I caught a glimpse of the future of jobs, and jobs as we know them had largely dis-appeared. I needed two graphics for an outside project I was doing for another company, and the deadline was 24 hours away, too tight for that publisher’s artists to produce them. Frustrated and desperate, I went online to find a freelancer.

Within an hour of posting my requirements on a reputable website, I had five bids from verified artists whose previous clients had rated them highly. The San Francisco-based artist I chose completed the work within 12 hours, surpassed my expectations and cost half of what I expected to pay.

I couldn’t help but wonder why that publisher still had an art department. Then I asked myself, why does any company employ anyone? Certainly there will always be work to do, but do we really need jobs where people work a specific number of hours in return for a set salary for years on end?

Millions of freelance workers, particularly software engineers and Web designers, make their living doing piecework off the Internet everyday. Companies only pay for the work they need, and the freelancer enjoys operating his or her own business.

Before the Industrial Revolution, almost all laborers worked like this. Everyone was an entrepreneur offering labor and building a client base.

Now there is growing evidence that this kind of economy is returning as companies lower overhead, robots perform routine tasks, and online labor markets become more efficient. The big question is whether we are ready.

Americans in general are depending less on employers. No recent college graduate expects to spend his or her working life at one company, and participation in labor unions has dropped. Layoffs are commonplace, with part-time and contractual employment becoming common at every pay level.
August 9, 2014
Houston Chronicle