The Future of Work – An Artist’s Perspective

The future of work is a concern for many. As we advance technology with artificial intelligence, with drones, with massive analytical capabilities we ask, will machines replace humans? Will there be any jobs left? What will we humans do?

In 2014, I was invited to present my Vision for Houston in 2040. This vision focused on our living environment, the combination of urbanism and nature. Since then, I’ve realized we also need to change how we live at the social level.

Currently we each carry a dollar sign on our chest. It is our value. It is what categorizes us and makes some targets to pursue and others untouchables. It gives us license to adore some and the ability to turn others invisible in their very presence. We relate to each other according to this value but aren’t we more than that?

If we look at Maslow’s hierarchy of needs we can find a guide for developing our social make-up.

Maslow's pyramid of needs. Found on Wikipedia.

Maslow’s pyramid of needs. Found on Wikipedia.

Each person is unique. We each come to this life with certain gifts. I propose that we allow each person to pursue the development of those gifts, that we allow them to be their passion. With free education to pursue the development of those skills and knowledge people will become richer in areas that make them happy.

By providing a universal basic income thanks to the automation of much of the work we will enable everyone to meet their physiological needs along with their needs for safety and security. Everyone would have food and shelter where they decide to live.  This would be a standard.

We would then be free to pursue love and belonging, esteem, and self actualization. We would become givers instead of takers. Creators instead of consumers. We would all be free to become philanthropists of the gifts we have to give and these gifts would be developed to the level we desire. Some people would pursue technical paths, some would pursue social or natural areas. We would be able to match those who are young and curious with incessant questions with those who are senior and experienced looking to share their accrued knowledge and wisdom.

Everyone could become a master or an expert, or obtain enough experience to suffice for the needs of sharing in their community. The choice would be theirs. Those who want to pursue more could do so. Those who have had a life of making widget number 5 all their life would be invited to learn that which always called to them. This would not stop them from pursuing the great fish that got away but would give meaning to their retirement by giving them the opportunity to kick around that which they always wanted to pursue or practice, even if it was what they always did and loved. They would share of themselves with those looking for just that ability. Each person would be honored at all points of their life.

By finding the space to pursue love and belonging they would become esteemed members of their community. By finding and developing their true calling people would identify their place in the community. For the love of it, they would be scientists, engineers, technology experts, analysts enhancing the the advancements that make life hum. There would be those who engage in the social make-up of the community filling the creative, spiritual, and human need. And there would be those who become explorers, philosophers, and those who contemplate the essence of life. There would be those who become specialists and those who become generalists testing life in various areas at different times in their life. Everyone would be a teacher and a giver at one time or another, some more than others.

By enabling everyone to create a specific space for themselves in the community and valuing them for who they are, we can change the way we see “work” and live. We will recognize that each individual is important for who they are and what they contribute to the rest of us or the world in thought, product or presence. Not to pursue consumption but quality of life and enjoyment. We would pursue the purpose of being human.

 

Economics: Reading The Tea Leaves

Reading tea leaves is sometimes easier than it sounds. In this case, the economic tea leaves were very clear to me and I wonder if they are as clear to others who are in a position to make change happen.

McKinsey tells us why top management eludes women in Latin America.  They list a myriad of reasons that sound very much like those we deal with in the U.S. We have the demands of profession and family, the fact that in many cases we prioritize family first, the lack of female role models, etc. They say that employers are just as committed to creating opportunities for women at their top level jobs as in the U.S.

Nowhere did it mention that age discrimination is a tolerated bias. That women coming into the workforce are faced with restrictions that limit openings to single, young and attractive women. That women in the workforce who have made their way up the ladder through the effort of complying with all demands and are forced to leave due to family demands can pretty much kiss their career goodbye because they are probably of an age that will not allow them back in so easily–30’s and beyond.

To me, this clearly tells me why women who have the experience and are capable of stepping into top management are not there to fill the jobs. They are basically squeezed out of the workforce the closer they get to the top and with fewer women still holding on to their jobs, and those who sacrifice their careers to handle family not likely to return, there are less likely and able candidates to consider.

The other set of tea leaves was a bit more obvious.  How has the economy impacted Americans? Top searches in one of our 50 states painted a picture that made me feel for the citizens of that state and others as well. The top searches in order of activity were:

Unemployment
Jobs
Food Stamps
Child Support
Gun Permit
Vehicle Registration
State Jobs
Employment
Public Services
State Employees
Divorce Forms
Social Security
Medicaid
More Public Services
Job Bank
Tax Forms… Can you see the picture?

What Came First, People or Business?

Each element of our society has essential value and deserves the respect of being sustainable. In this manner, each individual will contribute positively knowing they are a valued element of the whole. They will be more susceptible and able to contribute to the overall outcome, and their own perveyance.

People are the most valuable asset. Without people we have no need for products or services.

In a recent Forbes article by Laura Shin, “Why McDonald’s Employee Budget Has Everyone Up In Arms”, Shin points out that the budgeting tool became a detonator to the open acknowledgement that minimum wage does not support a person. It was right there on the internet!

Lilibeth Andre, Denzel, 10x8, watercolor

Lilibeth Andre, Denzel, 10×8, watercolor

This inability to make ends meet has been a long-known fact to anyone living on minimum wage or even without it. For example, one who has been in a position to know what it’s like to pay the bills with less money than is required can easily spot the fallacy of an attempt to support ones standard needs. In fact, the budgeting tool is clear to demonstrate that minimum wage doesn’t even support basic needs. And that is the whole point.

When we remove the ability people have to support themselves we take on a tremendous responsibility we are not well prepared to support. And when we bring someone on board requiring full-time (or more) attention from their life, we need to be able to give them what it takes to provide high quality attention.

What does high quality attention from an employee look like?

If I want to capture my employee’s high quality full attention, as a society, I want to be able to give him what he needs to be able to deliver that. Starting with the ability to have the peace of mind to be able to focus and providing the skills, knowledge and training that will allow him to maintain that optimum performance.

Lilibeth Andre, Drew, 11x8.5, watercolor

Lilibeth Andre, Drew, 11×8.5, watercolor

What provides peace of mind? Not having to worry about borrowing from Peter to pay Paul. This compromise is never more prevalent than for a working parent. In order to work, one must allow for care of the kids. Minimum wage does not provide the means to afford care for our children that merits their value as the investment in our future–yours and mine–because we don’t know what that child will be able to achieve and we want him to be the most balanced and prepared he can be. Does that include allowing the parent(s) to be more involved in their life? Does that mean providing the time they will need to do that? Does it mean that their work and school schedules will mirror each other? Does it mean valuing parenting years to raise the pay of one working parent?

The high quality comes in the education and training. An education system that provides ongoing knowledge and training to meet the needs of the workers and the employers. The guarantee that it will be affordable because we recognize the value of an education and its relationship to the quality of life of all of us. If we don’t invest in providing top education and training to our children, what will our future look like if those who become our leaders and service providers are less prepared that we were when we started? Will we be providing the enrichment that the arts offers to expand creativity and innovation as well as our appreciation for our own culture and that of others?

This minimum wage awareness focuses on those who work for others but what about those who work for themselves? Are we providing the liberties and environment that fosters sustainability by someone who sets out to support themselves or provide a product or service to others? We must not clip the wings of people or take away their independence. We must honor people’s essential value and deserved respect to be sustainable.

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