Work less or get paid more? Tech billionaires ponder your future
For many IT professionals, one important purpose of getting that next certification is to become better positioned for promotion by a current employer, or to look more attractive to a potential future employer. Certification leads to improved employment options.
Of course, not everyone sees a cloud on the long-term employment horizon — or if they do, then they also see reasons for optimism. There are two vehicles of opinion driven by IT billionaires that have been flying around the web in the past several days. Both men are thinking about the future of work in the United States and elsewhere, and both discuss potential changes to long-established norms, and the good that could come from shaking things up.
Nick Hanauer, an original investor in Amazon.com and the founder of digital marketing firm aQuantive (somewhat infamously purchased by Microsoft in 2007 for $6.4 billion) is the more evangelical of the two. Hanauer, who lives in Seattle, drills down deep into the potential benefits of raising the federal minimum wage in a guest editorial on Politico. Seattle is in the process of phasing in a city-wide increase of the minimum hourly wage to $15, and Hanauer doesn't just think the idea could work elsewhere in the country. He thinks it's essential to preserving national economic stability.
Hanauer addresses himself directly to "my fellow zillionaires" — he's clearly talking to the people he thinks would be most reluctant to accept his premise — but you don't have to be filthy rich to take his point.
The other boat rocker isn't actually leading a charge, but his comments are nearly as provocative. Google cofounders Larry Page and Sergey Brin participated in a "fireside chat" with billionaire investor (and surf Nazi) Vinod Khosla, founder and first CEO of Sun Microsystems. Khosla questions the two about a variety of topics, including his own failed attempt to purchase Google in its infancy. It's Page's thoughts about the consequences of automation replacing manpower, however, that appear to have struck a chord.
In a nutshell, Page doesn't think people should be concerned about having less work to do (and therefore diminished income) because machines and computers are doing more of everything. Page thinks it's possible for advancing technology to streamline production of goods and services enough that people could still meet their basic needs while working, say, four days a week instead of five.
There's a bit of a weird synergy to Hanauer's bold idea and Page's tech-fueled speculation. Perhaps CEOs who cringe at the thought of doubling compensation for the most lowly of employees would see some relief in being asked to pay a premium wage, but for fewer hours worked. There are probably plenty of workers, meanwhile, who wouldn't ask anyone at Google to give another moment's thought to self-driving cars, if it meant that Page's minions could unlock the secret of a four-day work week instead.