It’s in the news almost every week now – some new artificial intelligence program surprises scientists by doing something they didn’t think would be possible for a generation.
And while the possibilities for better health care, transport, and scientific breakthroughs are fascinating and inspiring, there is also going to be a huge process of adaptation for our culture.
In fact, it’s already begun at the workplace.
Take a look at manufacturing, mining, and large sections of agriculture and you’ll see millions of human jobs taken over by robots, machines, and more efficient factories. Call centers around the world are about to experience something similar.
And the economy is never going back.
The world is addicted to the cheap products these processes create, and many politicians aren’t sure how they should address the new work gaps being created.
So what do you do in a world where the job you thought you would have for the rest of your life might soon be significantly impacted by artificial intelligence or machines? And if you’re already in a technologically advanced space, how can you optimize further?
I’m no expert on the A.I. revolution, but here’s some things I’ll be trying for myself and my company. I hope it helps in some way.
What will Artificial Intelligence mean for our work?
The first thing we need to note is that no one really knows what is going to happen when it comes to artificial intelligence. Current estimates fall somewhere in between science and radical science-fiction.
Guys like Elon Musk and Steven Hawking are worried, and you can read articles like this one that suggest that A.I. will be the end of the human race, or more hopeful economic pieces like this one that suggest perhaps we won’t need to work for money soon because A.I. will do all the heavy lifting. That could be fun!
But I think the CEO of GoDaddy is a bit more on-the-money when he says that he thinks about it more practically: what is happening right now and how should people be preparing today? As such, GoDaddy is hoping to show people how to move towards a small business model that is available to almost anyone.
All of this can be a bit overwhelming and, for me at least, it’s important to remember that I can’t change the evolution of the human race or the economy as a whole, but I can have a big impact on what I do with my life, work, and income.
That’s where Jeff’s new book, Real Artists Don’t Starve, really says something interesting:
“Sometimes, it’s not the big bets that pay off but the small ones that get you the big win. If you don’t have to go all in, don’t. Why not start with a smaller risk? Most significant change begins with a simple step, not a giant leap. You don’t need to see the whole path to know what your next move is; you just need to take the next, right risk. Small changes over time can lead to massive transformation.”
Small changes over time can lead to massive transformation.
So what is a small risk that we can all take? Something with low barriers to entry and easy access to information, training, and results?
It’s the web.
Thinking carefully about the Internet’s role in our work’s future
The Internet has created some fantastic income opportunities for our generation that have never been available before – for many people it represents a huge lifeline.
I am eternally grateful that my whole career has been shaped by my attempts to find work online because I didn’t know what to do in the “real world” and I hated college.
And I can’t help but evangelize its benefits of the net when I see so many others frightened or confused about what to do with their own uncertain careers.
More and more people are turning to the Internet to help sell their products, services, or create something entirely new for the world.
For example, I’ve spent the last five years on Blog Tyrant teaching people the ins and outs of starting a blog and growing it strategically as a way to supplement their income in a rapidly changing economy.
Those blogs can do almost anything, and they can help you no matter what you do.
- If you’re an artist, you can use a website or blog to find audiences around the world that would have never encountered you 30 years ago. You can sell to them directly with your own store made with a simple plugin, or you can use an existing website like Etsy.
- If you’re a writer, you can build a massive audience that know and love your material long before you even launch a book to sell. Go one step further and encourage them to sign up to a mailing list and you’ve got an instant selling platform that the authors of the past would have killed for.
- If you’re a real estate agent that is used to advertising in the newspaper alone, why not get a simple Instagram account and upload photos of your new listings with hashtags that allow you to tap into the local population instantly and for free?
These technologies are cheap, often open-source, and constantly evolving to make your job easier.
There are analytics and data programs that automatically tell you what design converts best. There are advert platforms that will put you directly in front of people who are statistically more likely to engage with your work.
What if you know nothing about the Internet?
Sure, creating a website and learning how to promote your work (or yourself) is a big step that will represent a rather large learning curve for a lot of people.
And that’s where Real Artists Don’t Starve shines another light:
“More often than not, our creative dreams aren’t launched over-night. They are built gradually. When you are in a season of life when you can’t dedicate hours a day to your craft, it can feel like you’re standing still. But at those times, when the odds are overwhelming and the busyness is suffocating, you still have something to give. The effort may seem small and insignificant, but the work adds up.”
The effort may seem small and insignificant, but the work adds up.
Using the Internet to start a business, promote art, network to find new clients, etc. is a long term move.
It’s something we can do after work.
It’s something we can do on the weekend.
It’s even something we can do while we go back to school to get a new qualification.
It’s not all or nothing.
But one of the most important things to consider here is that it’s the art of learning itself that is going to make a huge difference in this new age of A.I. and machine learning. While my own example is not remarkable, I am constantly amazed and the different opportunities I have found by just being online researching ways to make my current projects work.
Throughout history we can find countless examples of people who resisted change because it was scary, overwhelming, etc. and then got left behind. Unfortunately, for a lot of people who are trained and working in areas vulnerable to A.I. and automation, we are at another similar historical juncture.
Real Artists Don’t Starve encourages creatives to approach their careers differently, and this is all that we are talking about here. We can use the Internet and these new technologies to backup our careers, supplement them, and even find new income opportunities.
Whether or not you succeed right away is one issue.
But it’s important to keep in mind the big picture: the skills you’ll learn, the networks you’ll make, and the ‘believe in yourself’ attitude that somehow gets developed when you decide to take control of a difficult situation and make something of it.
Those are factors that might just help us flourish in an exciting new age.
So where do we start?
As someone who naturally has a lot of anxiety, laziness, and a habitual need to procrastinate as much as possible, the best advice I can give is this:
While there is a lot to be said for business plans, marketing strategies, etc. there is also a lot that is learned by experimenting. If you look at successful examples in your niche you’ll almost always notice that their breakthroughs came because they were tinkerers.
Here’s some small but significant things you can do today:
- Get your own modern real estate
Unless the Internet changes dramatically through concepts like removing net neutrality, then one of the best things you can do is set yourself up on your own blog hosting that will allow you to build a place online that you own and control. You can brand it, change it, and develop however you need and for whatever purpose your art or work requires. Don’t underestimate how important it is to have your name and brand easily found on Google. Google is not going anywhere.
- Practice on social networking that organizes by community
If you’re not ready for that, then start practicing on platforms like Medium or Pinterest that allow you to collect things that interest you, ask educational questions, find people in your area that you might be able to copy/learn from, etc. Knowing the right people is invaluable, especially when you are starting out and need guidance.
- Look at your threats and opportunities
The next thing you’ll want to do is take a look at the threats that are facing your career, income stream, ability to change jobs, etc. At the same time, you’ll want to uncover any opportunities that might be available to you because of your passions or skills. You’ll be surprised at how many “real world” skills can be brilliantly adapted to the net. Look at stories like Nasty Gal who took a passion for vintage clothes into a multi-million dollar online store, Miniature Sweet who sold over 200,000 products on Etsy in 2015, or the farmers turned web entrepreneurs on Dishing Up the Dirt. These are all examples of people who have used the net to combine with a physical business and see a new success.
- Set a goal and a timeline
If you decide to make some sort of change then it can be extremely useful to set a goal and a timeline. As I said earlier, I can be very lazy and if I don’t set a goal then I end up on the research phase for all eternity. Do some reading around and come up with a realistic set of numbers like making a part time income online within two years, selling 10% more paintings on the Internet by the end of the year, or just setting up your own website and online store within a month. Again, it doesn’t matter whether you hit these targets because you learn a lot on the way and the goals often change.
- Look for ideas outside of your regular industry
One of the most valuable things anyone ever told me was to look for ideas outside of your niche because there are a lot of people doing it better. For example, if traditional newspapers had embraced blogging a lot earlier on and adopted subscription models instead of ads based on traffic numbers, then they might be in a lot less financial trouble as an industry. Things like Google SEO, Facebook advertising, social media marketing, conversion optimization, etc. will benefit almost any industry, on or offline.
- Find a way to be distinctive
Professor Sharp has done a lot of researching in to successful businesses and marketing campaigns and found that one of the most vital things is that you find a way to be distinctive and memorable. It’s no longer likely that you’ll be original, so find a way to stand out from your competitors and then work on reaching as many people a you can.
- Solve modern problems
The last point I wanted to talk about is how important it is to be useful. The world is undergoing rapid changes in things like science, politics, religion, climate change, community structure, education, and, through all of this, people (rightly or wrongly) are looking for solutions online. Try to make sure that everything you do on the Internet helps someone, even if only in a small way. You’ll also find that they’ll be more likely to talk about you to their friends if you’ve helped them sleep better at night. This leads to a very rewarding work life for yourself and your staff.
Remember, you don’t have to do everything all at once. It’s enough that you sit down and try to learn something new. While that won’t’ pay the bills right away, it could be the start of a new stage in your life that brings you a lot of fulfillment.
A final word
Thinking about robots, artificial intelligence, and all the changes that the workplace is undergoing can seem a little overwhelming. But it’s important to remember that we now have so many opportunities that weren’t possible even just a few years ago.
If you’re on this website it’s pretty likely that you’re more creative, driven and curious than average and, as such, you’re already at a huge advantage.
So what will you be doing differently in the age of A.I. and robotics? And are you already using the Internet to supplement, enhance, or backup your career? I’d love to hear your thoughts and ideas below in the comments.