"If we care more about tasks than about people, then tech will replace people. If we care more about people than about tasks, then tech can leverage people" - David Nordfors, i4J Leadership Forum
David Nordfors has been writing in TechCrunch for the past year about his vision for an "untapped, $140-trillion a year economy." He posits that because of high smartphone penetration and new infrastructures like cloud computing and big data analytics, it's lately become possible (or at least technologically conceivable) to match up individuals or combine teams with special skills, who get paid to serve highly individualized customers' needs. All work can be performed in a virtual workplace thats set on a global scale.
Graphite already offers a form of this service, matching employers anywhere with finance and marketing professionals in the US and abroad who have the specialized skill sets or experience for a project with highly specialized requirements. We're constantly innovating and building out our platform to make it more usable by anyone, including our recent rollout of an easy transaction portal for paying contractors in the UK.
Nordfors says that until now, tailored jobs for everyone on the planet earth was impossible. But the innovations of job and skills matching platforms are now opening the doors to closer, more precise algorithmic matching to satisfy any business or consumer need, anywhere, at any time. We're not just talking about TaskRabbit or Uber.
At the end of the day, Nordfors says, there are only so many people who need a cab ride, competition in that field is growing fast, and the supply of drivers is becoming so large that the margins are shrinking. Recent protests by Uber drivers in NYC highlight this problem. More importantly, Uber doesn’t care about any specialized skills you may have (well, maybe a good sense of direction); those doesn’t affect the price you can charge as a driver. You, the worker, are a commodity. You might as well be a machine.
These workers are what Seth Godin calls "Mechanical Turks," performing easily replicable tasks at the lowest functional levels, and for the lowest pay. Nordfors' theory holds that all people have special interests and capacities that until recently have had no known market. Smart entrepreneurs, software engineers and mobile app developers are busy discovering ways of leveraging the value of unique, individual talents into an economic commodity. With these new smart matching capabilities, anyone's unusual ability can be converted into a marketable skill so long as there's an easily accessible service with minimal fuss involved.
It may start out small, but something like this could quickly scale up. It's personal solutions tailored to individual needs, done on a global scale. Time will tell if this theory plays out among today's engineers or tomorrow's innovators in the world of online work platforms, but for now, it's exciting to think about.