Singularity, the point where human experience and technological omnipresence converge, will fundamentally change our experiences, including how we work and live. In this new world, there will be instant access to information and commerce as well as instantaneous social interactions and communication. This is made possible by Barrier-free Access. Any individual, regardless of financial or social status, or what country they come from, will have the totality of information at their fingertips to compete in the global, digital economy. The world is truly flat in this new paradigm.
But it all starts with getting online. Today, information is largely available to many people for free—but not to everyone. In 2018, nearly 53 percent (just over 4 billion) of the world’s population of 7.6 billion people has access to the Internet. That’s an increase of 7 percent from the year prior. Further, about 3.2 billion people (around 42 percent) are social media users.[i]
In the near future, around 2030, almost everyone will have access to the Internet, and no longer will the vastness of information and data solely be a benefit to the privileged. The potential for human innovation will grow exponentially when we all can obtain unlimited knowledge and simultaneous access to any person.
We will all have the same access to many types of information, and we will all be able to find the same information—whether you are an executive or an assistant, a factory worker or a factory owner. This leveling of the playing field will provide immense advancement opportunities for education and jobs. Essentially, we will be able to play outside established rules.
The Rise of Nontraditional Education
For generations, we attended four-year colleges, studied hard, got mentored, went to work for a big company, stayed for decades, and retired. Today, we can follow a different path. Interest in nontraditional education—including online classes, universities, and accredited degrees—is surging. More affordable, IT-focused online education programs known as nanodegrees are bringing into question the more traditional education route and are giving people new options for careers that are more aligned with industry needs.
For less than a fraction of the cost, and in much less time, people are going to online education providers like Udacity and Coursera to earn certifications in skill sets that are becoming more and more critical to earning a living as we reach Singularity: self-driving-car engineers, data analysts, VR developers, and AI engineers. Tech employers are beginning to readily accept the degrees as legitimate entryways into these specialized jobs.
The Gig Economy
There are many possibilities and new paths to jobs, and the market for this activity is only growing. Having all of this access has given rise to the “gig economy,” meaning that the legions of freelancers, contractors and temporary employees working outside the regular system in many different jobs are paid per “gig” based on their schedule, preferences and availability.
The prevalent use of smartphone technology and the cloud, as well as new technology platforms, are changing how many persons view and perform jobs. Gig platforms, such as TaskRabbit, Upwork, and PeoplePerHour, provide ways for people to make money and supplement their income through a newfound sense of freedom. Fortune 500 companies interested in more flexible, lower-cost ways to hire are increasingly turning to these platforms to find workers with specialized knowledge.
For many freelancers this is not just a side job; they are not just dabbling, they are in it for the long haul. These are not the unemployed looking for any work, temporary or otherwise—they are specialized individuals using Barrier-free Access to find and compete for opportunities based on choice. In a recent study on freelancers, two-thirds said they plan on freelancing for ten or more years, and 65 percent said they believe their lives as freelancers have been improving[ii]—and this is good news, not only for freelancers but for the companies that hire them. The number of Americans who are self-employed is increasing each year.[iii] By 2020, more than 40 percent of the U.S. workforce will be independent workers.[iv]
Barrier-free Access implies that if we are all able to use the same information and data, then we are effectively equal in many respects. That means we do not have to be special or advantaged in some way to get ahead; we just need to be industrious to create opportunities for ourselves in unconventional job and education markets.
[ii] Jordan Teicher, “The State of Freelancing 2015,” Contently, June 22, 2015, http://contently.net/2015/06/22/resources/contently-study-state-freelancing-2015/.
[iii] Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Selected Economic Indicators,” press release, https://www.bls.gov/news.release/empsit.t09.htm.
[iv] Intuit, “Twenty Trends That Will Shape the Next Decade,” http://http-download.intuit.com/http.intuit/CMO/intuit/futureofsmallbusiness/ intuit_2020_report.pdf.
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