Monday, March 28, 2016

Better preparing for a good life given the low wage jobs of the future

Some folks see the solution to economic woes being more education. Science, math, STEM, computer programming and so forth to prepare people for the "jobs of the future." Problem is most of the jobs of the future seem to be low wage service type positions; such as hotel maids or things like piece work Uber drivers. Little is done about teaching us how to live our lives and plan society around the reality of low wage work for the majority of folks. How can housing, health, transportation and education become affordable so we can live with dignity, given the jobs of the future?

Politicians often talk about the high tech jobs that can't be filled do to lack of workers with certain highly specific credentials. This problem gets lots of media attention, but seems like it isn't the vast majority of jobs. In our economy, there are a certain segment of jobs that are highly specialized and hard to match. It's true that there may be a mismatch between education and some of these specialties, but part of that problem is the rapidly changing technology of today causing education to lag behind the cutting edge needs. While these specialized jobs do exist, the bulk of the jobs are not this. I hear it only takes a few employees to run many multi billion dollar tech companies such as Instagram. Educating more people just to compete for those specialized positions isn't going to help most workers.

Our tech economy does help consumers, however. Folks get to use great resources such as Google and Facebook for free, but this doesn't pay the rent. We live in a time of great opportunities created by technology. Not necessarily job opportunities for most people, but cultural opportunities in research, volunteerism and reaching out across the globe. What we need to do is to figure out how to make society work better, given the fact that most people aren't going to be at the top of the tech game in their vocation. Most people will still be working lower down on the pay scale, but life can still be good. We just have to figure out how to better plan our societies and our education goals for the realities that most people face. Elite education and jobs will still exist, but most people have a need for different strategies. Learning to navigate the world by bicycle, for instance. Learning how to stay healthy and not need un affordable healthcare, for instance.

Economists, like the liberal writer Paul Krugman, might complain a bit about my ideas as much of his thinking revolves around bolstering consumption to rev up the economy. Bolstering consumption, given our environmental crisis, is tricky. It can be done using better technology, such as solar energy, but it is tricky. I do like many of his ideas about circulating wealth in better and more fair ways, but we also need to learn how to live well with less dependency on consumption. Not necessarily turn the clock back to less prosperous times, but just learn how to live more intelligently. Live intelligently, using the tools technology is giving us.