Jobs, Change, and Jobs

Jobs, Change, and Jobs

Unemployment is too high, yet many of the nation’s jobs go unfilled. There are too few qualified workers. CEOs complain about the lack of technical talent. Yet, offshore talent grows as ours declines.

Overnight, our daily habits and lives have changed. Industries and sectors of the economy have been upended in the blink of an eye. Upheavals induced by technology are everywhere.

Steve Jobs played a large role in changing the way we work, play, learn, and communicate. As much as anyone, he came to symbolize the integration and proliferation of technology in our daily lives. But, one of the reasons we don’t have enough jobs is that we can’t adapt fast enough to the changes that Jobs has wrought.

Jobs is credited with changing technology, but Jobs’ technology changed most jobs. Jobs have been transformed, and those working at technical jobs have changed other jobs. The skills of yesterday don’t fit the jobs of tomorrow. People cannot change as quickly as technology.

Jobs saw the future of technology and other areas such as entertainment, communications, and education, but we have yet to really understand the future of jobs. Jobs left it to others to figure out what to do in this new world. Technology is important, but technology is often not a solution, only a tool – but, a tool for what?

Like the job of being a citizen in the Internet age, it is easier to see how the old is no longer applicable than it is to see the new that is emerging. Instant clicks are not always compatible with thoughtful self-governance. We no longer know how to decide which so-called news is truly accurate in the information age. While everyone has the right to speak, how do we decide if that speech is right? The Internet age makes it easy to label people and ideas, but it also makes it more likely that the labels are wrong.

Jobs may have led the development of a new kind of technology, but he did not tell us how to adjust to the new kind of society that the technology brings with it. In a society that used to value work and labor, how do we value activities that must be sustained by intangible products like advertising and other forms of air? Not just a little air, but a lot of air.

Many services cost us nothing in return for exposing ourselves to the advertising of others. Now, Facebook and the like enable us to advertise ourselves. The millions of us using Facebook everyday do not make anything with our efforts. We work at something that costs us nothing and produces nothing – nothing tangible, at least, in the traditional sense. Is this the new work? If so, who pays us for our labors?

Like Thomas Edison and Alexander Graham Bell before him, Jobs changed the nature of work and jobs. But what have jobs become? Is jobs another label that has no meaning? No jobs bill can answer that question.