My March 13, 2017 post, entitled “The Robot Economy,” looked at how humans might prepare for the day when robots do all the work people used to do. It seems likely that people will still need some income if they are to enjoy the advances afforded by modern technology. Strategies I identified in that post included owning a working robot to hire out for income, or even owning stock in the companies that build robots and pay good dividends.
Other strategies have surfaced, which I collectively call Finding a Niche. These strategies revolve around people taking the initiative to either create their own jobs, or finding gigs within the evolving labor market. Entrepreneurs, inventor/investors, and freelancers are people who create jobs. People who pursue gigs include moonlighters (part-timers), entertainers, personal service providers, casual laborers, public speakers, and handy-people. One of the best contemporary examples of a worker with a gig is an Uber driver. Uber lets people work whenever they can/want to – simply by signing on as available to pick-up passengers.
For many young people with little or no accumulated wealth, these strategies are far more viable than buying an expensive robot. There’s no reason why entrepreneurs, freelances, part-timers, personal service providers and others can’t make a comfortable living for themselves. Some will even get rich, although many won’t simply because the percentages are against them. There will be more opportunities in the future, but there will also be more people pursuing them.
One idea I think is especially promising is for people who come across business opportunities while engaged in their hobbies. Recognize that in the future many people will have more time for hobbies. What constitutes a hobby is virtually limitless; it comes down to pretty much any legal pastime people wish to engage in. The business idea comes when a person needs something for his hobby and discovers no one makes it. Could he make it himself and sell it for a profit? Or there’s the hobbyist who fashions her own unique tool to make her projects go smoothly, then realizes, “Could other people use this tool, too?” Making such products to sell online could be a successful business because, while the demand is evident (i.e. the tool worked for her), the demand would not be big enough to attract major manufacturers. As another alternative, for years people have established their own businesses by buying select hobbyist’s supplies in bulk – far more than needed by any of their potential customers – and then repackaging them in to smaller quantities to sale to individuals. Sometimes called cottage industries, these businesses are now far more common than ever.
Unfortunately, this glance into the future hasn’t surfaced anything terribly new or insightful. There will be those who “follow the money” and there will be those who “pursue their passion.” If money is a person’s passion, then the solution is for them to go into business. For all the rest, the whole issue of future employment comes down to the three basic questions that it always comes down to: 1) what is my passion, 2) what do I want to do, and 3) what am I good at doing? Many people spend their whole lives trying to answer these questions. Sometimes when they find the answers, they face challenges reconciling them. Nothing suggests it will be any different in the future.