I just spent an hour reading, in various ways, about Uber. I read about the “gig economy” and how the “uberization” of everything isn’t actually working out. I read about how Uber is working out…and how a lot of people are furious about it. Namely, the drivers.
In the articles I read, the stories were effectively that the services being provided weren’t as cheap as we were lead to believe they might be. Also, that a lot of the workers will only work for so little before they go on strike. There was a lot of striking.
This has me thinking a lot about innovation and how the economy is shifting. I’ve heard the term “gig economy” used a lot in the last few years. I’ve heard the term “social economy” and “network economy.” The ideas are all the same: There is no such thing as a stable, long-term job anymore.
And you know what? That’s equal parts true, and also total bullshit. Let me explain that perspective:
We are developing new technologies every day, and the reason we’re doing this is because we have given the ability of developing to basically everyone we can. We have increased the population of change makers by a million percent by enabling people to actually take action on their ideas. That means we’re dealing with innovation on a global scale. We’re making new things REALLY fast.
You know what that means, right? We’re making OLD THINGS really fast.
Innovation is an interesting thing, because in order to have it, there must have been something that existed before it. I’m actually giving a TedX talk next week about this very topic. Fundamentals are required for innovation. It’s not a tough concept – in order to climb two steps, you must climb one. And that concept continues ad infinitum: in order to climb fifty steps, you must climb forty-nine. That means for every innovation that we have, we’re taking something that already exists and using it to step up into new space. It doesn’t mean that the forty-ninth step is gone, but we don’t live there anymore. That step is now an OLD step.
Let’s take this back to Uber and jobs and what that means in general. It means that every time there’s an innovation, we create this new space for people to become excited about. This usually creates some people who want to experience the new thing, and some people who will become providers of the new thing. So, Uber happened, that was pretty neat. Lots of people want car rides, and some people want to give car rides. Uber is the 50th step. Then the guys living on the 49th step got FURIOUS… like violent furious. Google search “violent protests against Uber.” It’s not like a couple people – it’s tens of thousands of people in multiple countries. They’re pissed.
Now, Uber is already talking about the 51st step: Self-Driving cars. They’re coming, it’s going to happen. No matter what anyone else feels, I’m insanely excited for this, although “I’m ready for the flying shit.” (I can’t find the essay that is from – I’m sorry original author, you were great.) The Uber driver guys are already talking about how they’re going to deal with Uber moving to the 51st step. They’re pre-pissed about this innovation.
Here’s Reality 1, and the conclusion to why there’s no such thing as a stable job anymore: We’re going to keep making new steps. Once we have self-driving cars, there will be a 52nd step. There will be a 53rd step. We’ll have self-driving-flying cars. There will be a 75th step – we might get something that will allow us to teleport! (WHY is “Teleport” a spellcheck error word?)
Here’s why it’s total bullshit: You know what has NOT changed in that entire litany of steps? Travel. We still want to travel. Move from here, over to there. That was the FIRST step. I think we’ll keep climbing that staircase until we’re no longer human, and then we’ll have a whole different thing to deal with. But while we’re human, we’re going to want to TRAVEL.
If you stop thinking in terms of METHOD and start thinking in terms of FUNDAMENTALS then suddenly your short-term gig becomes a long-term job.
Don’t short-sight humanity. We’re going to innovate past Taxi Drivers. We’re going to innovate past the postal service worker. We’re going to innovate past mining. We’re going to innovate past keyboards and mice and LCD screens on desks. We are. It’s going to happen.
But as long as we’re human, we’re probably not going to innovate past travel. We’re not going to innovate past our desire to interact with the world, to INNOVATE on what is already around us. And every time we do that, we’re going to have some people who get excited, and some people who decide they’re going to provide an experience to those who are excited.
So yes, your yellow taxi job is temporary. Your job with Uber is probably VERY temporary.
But, your career in Travel may have just begun.
You can see this on my LinkedIn if you’d like