There is something taking place that nobody alive has ever witnessed.
First, let's set the scene: a time when economists are concerned with an insurmountable set of bubbles in the stock and real estate markets. A time when supply chains are running ragged, and there aren't enough hours in the day to get the stuff from containers to the people that ordered them. A time when microchips are in such high demand for everyday objects, car lots have completely sold out of stock.
To top it all off, it seems we're creeping closer to a global food shortage. Oh yeah...and inflation is on the rise. If you're a doomsday prepper, you're laughing your behind off right now as the world scrambles to make sense of a newfound sense of dread at what may or may not transpire in 2022.
Throughout history, during periods of instability, people have clung to whatever job they could get their hands on - financial stability has always been seen as the key to survivability.
Not so today... It would seem we've reached some sort of existential boiling point. And it is coming at, if not the worst, the oddest time for such a display.
As we near the end of 2021, people are telling their bosses to shove their jobs up their asses, and they don't seem to give a flying fudgcical what anyone thinks about it.
People are calling it "The Great Resignation", and it feels like a movement. Working Americans want better working conditions and higher wages. This is coming on the coattails of decades of pay that has not, by any appreciable amount, risen in accordance with inflation. Whether this is entirely to do with stingy management or a wayward economy is a moot point.
Companies pay big dividends to their shareholders instead of their employees. It's happened. It's happening. And employees are not happy.
It's suddenly a worker's market, and employers are taking notice. Pay is increasing, and business owners are very preoccupied with the ability to conduct business with a staff that may or may not come to work in the morning.
But if you're paying attention to trends in artificial intelligence and blockchain, it has all the earmarks of a setup for mass job loss. While people are winning in the moment, employers need to find reliable substitutes for accomplishing the menial tasks they're used to paying workers minimum wage for.
For every job comprised of repeatable reactions to predictable context, it's a race towards human obsolescence. Mechanical arms are already flipping burgers, cars are driving themselves, and new AI software is getting workers to create programs that replace themselves.
There is an unbearable truth hidden in all of this: there have never been enough real jobs to occupy all of the people on this planet. A real job for a human is one that requires both high level thinking and creativity for coming up with solutions to problems that don't yet exist.
The creativity part of this is key, as both robots and AI tend to be horrible at it. Robots are great at doing repetitive tasks, and humans are great at thinking through evolving situations in real time. Including assessing whether or not to complete the task in the first place.
Many of the jobs people have considered careers are in actuality nothing more than transitory positions waiting for robot and AI tech to catch up. This includes everything from truck drivers to accountants. Companies have also been incentivized by banks to overinflate their employee numbers in return for access to cheaper capital that they can in turn use for investments. Worker bees are commonly led to believe their positions are non-replaceable, when nothing could be further from the truth.
Given enough time, human worker bees can and will be replaced entirely by synthetic worker bees. It's unavoidable.There is, and always will be, an economic incentive to use synthetic intelligence to scale production. After all, it leads to greater GDP. More is being produced at less cost. Products become cheaper through the deflationary force of technology, because CEOs don't have to pay humans for the same level of production.
Folding this back into the context of "The Great Resignation", savvy CEOs of large corporations have far more to gain from this set up than to lose. If thousands of workers say they want better wages, and upper management increases the wages of the lowest paid workers by 25%, they are essentially paying people a severance package in advance of their eventual layoff.
If most of the people whose pay they increased are working at jobs that will be replaced by automation, short term pay increases will seem to workers like victories. But they're not.
Short term increases in pay will amount to nothing more than hush money, and it's going to cycle through at an alarming rate. Upper management doesn't need to instigate layoffs. They simply need to be patient.
Person A gets a pay raise, and as her/his coworkers leave under the normal rate of recycling staff, their places will be taken by a mixture of cheaper outsourced staff from another country, or some form of A.I., or both. The CEO of the company will get to save face by keeping wages high, and eventually ALL of the outsourced tasks will be taken up by A.I.
Which isn't to say that upper management positions are safe, but that's another subject entirely.
As regards "The Great Resignation", most workers will believe they're getting the better of their employers. A recent poll suggested that roughly 4% of the people who quit their jobs in 2021 did so because they gained financial freedom through cryptocurrency. While this will in all likelihood become a common thread throughout 2022 and beyond, the underlying reasons for the greatest transfer of wealth in the history of humanity are not optimistic.
The world's freest marketplace (crypto) is giving us a clearer window than the Federal Reserve's for seeing real inflation. There's a reason that the recent inflationary data led to an immediate increase in the price of Bitcoin. Savvy investors are searching for a store of value, and the US Dollar (and all fiat currency) is losing purchasing power.
This means the 4% who quit their jobs due to gains is currently stuck in a hamster wheel where the more they make as investors, the more it signals that the money they made in fiat terms has lost its magic. If they aren't reallocating those gains into further investments, or setting themselves up for a higher paying job, there won't be a job for them to go back to by the time their gains run out.
There will be a tipping point.
All of those "Workers Wanted" and "Signup Bonus" signs will switch to the vacant eyes of an overly helpful robot, trying to better serve everyone who doesn't have any way of paying for those services.
What will everyone do with their spare time?