Next to go: WHITE collar jobs, so learn a Craft !!

Office jobs

1. This is the real big social/political/economic problem we have to face all over the world: JOBS FOR YOUNG MIDDLE CLASS PEOPLE.  Prez. Obama has declared that he is thinking about this issue nonstop. It makes me sad and baffled that this message does not enter the mental frame of most people and politicians, despite the fact that many others and I have been publishing about this for years. A lot of other issues like the Arab Spring, Russian & Spannish revolts and the Financial Crisis are symptoms of this worldwide job problem. And it will be the source of lots of unrests and maybe even wars the coming years. The Wall Street and City banksters who triggered the present Crisis have not been forced to change much in the way they operate despite more oversight. Most of them, including most governments and politicians expect the Crisis to be over soon or in a couple of years and then all will be as it was before, booming and growing everywhere. Will everything restart as if nothing happened? No it will not. We are in a real transition to a new situation, and some things will not come back, other things will appear totally out of the blue.

What is happening? We all have seen huge numbers of manual jobs on farms being replaced by machines; then after agri-labourers where set to work in factories (transition causing the US Civil War) a large percentage where replaced by automated machines and robots; now a huge amount of people including former industry-labourers where set to work in office buildings. 


This reservoir of work called the ‘service industry’, started as overhead for factories, was supposed the ‘next thing to be in’ (banks, insurance companies, ministries, Internet Service Providers, telco’s, software houses, accountancies, lawfirms, stock brokers). Parents still send their kids to education to prepare them for careers in these ‘future proof dream jobs’, which now forms in their eyes the core of middle class with hierarchies of multiple levels of bureaucratic management, reporting and tribal island power fights. Dilbert comics describe this zombie-like un-natural world rather well, I am afraid. And these people are the bulk of the electorate of the ‘central’ political parties.

2. The last couple of years however some alarming signals can be perceived that warn that this world of “white collar office work and management” starts to crumble. Flex work job suppliers noticed that when they normally get orders for like twenty jobs (with interchangeable administrative people) they now are asked to send one. Even more alarming, now that here and there works starts to pick up again after the Crisis, many that where laid-off are not re-hired ! See my earlier blog:

3. Now more formal analytics and proof has been gathered for this alarming phenomenon that will disrupt society everywhere. Oxford researchers say that 45 percent of America’s occupations will be automated within the next 20 years. 

So after numbers of farm and blue collar workers deminished now we will see that white collar and…even jobs for the higher educated  will be replaced by networked computer software.

This is totally in conflict with what generations of people have expected. And will have problems with to receive and percieve. It is simply outsides their experiental world, like 2D Flatlanders in a 3 dimensional world. From now on I will call them “Platten” (from the Dutch language “plat”).

4. Is there a cure? Sure many new types of work, often computer supported, does at the same time appear. Often started as peripheral to services and factories, like in design shops making prototypes or rapid manufacture for spare parts. And thank heavens many young people have noticed this and have seen this coming for years, so they find quite new and unexpected (for their parents)  career paths which make them go, be obsessed and successful. These new activities have in common that it makes the boys and girls USEFUL for their online and offline community, whether it makes them much money or not. No they are not really interested to be managers or leaders. Their obsession is the be a respected top craftsperson and unique with a track record in a certain skill or craft; often as part of a multi-skill team; active in a networked P2P commons/cooperative. Ability to understand and write computer code is a highly valued basic skill and can be considered a language for these new jobs (see my next blog). And, they learn fast and continuously from experiences with things that work for clients or not. It gives a lot of satisfaction to design, to get things DONE and create value surprisingly also in agriculture in the centre of cities, self-sustaining sharing communities and FabLab small scale factories with embedded offices. each of these whizz kids is well connected and contribute to the other members of their network. That is why call them “Contributors“.

ir. Jaap van Till, Connectivist

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