One of the most important changes in mindset of the Digital Age is that we no longer want to sell our time for income. We don’t want time sheets or 40 hours of salaried work. Instead, we want the opportunities unique to this age. The ones created by a democratized internet. The opportunities that allow us to invest our time as opposed to selling it. The opportunities to build assets and equity for ourselves as opposed to building them for others.
It’s a major mindset shift that will define the next phase of the digital age. It changes how we value time and its reinforced by remote and asynchronous work. These work styles help to untether late industrial policies from the necessary employment policy of the digital age.
Put another way, the 9 to 5 salaried knowledge worker is a dying concept because of the internet and remote work.
Remote work is possible because of digital infrastructure like the global internet, decentralized finance, distributed communications tools (Zoom), and forced lockdowns. And these changes have reformatted the minds of the late industrial age knowledge worker. Digital innovation not only made remote work possible but showcased that asynchronous remote work was possible and in many cases practical.
Most importantly, many knowledge workers found these changes more desirable.
But what exactly do all these changes mean? And why does it matter to how we view our time?
What This Mindset Shift Means
We are waking up to the benefits of the internet. And these benefits conflict with the optimized policies of the late industrial age.
Like the expectation that you should go to your office and sit in your chair 8 hours a day 5 days a week. Its no longer a policy of necessity. Digital technology allows many different types of jobs to be conducted from anywhere in the world. And this revelation forces a review of why we have a 9 to 5 format to begin with.
Salaried jobs with benefits were a way to address worker abuses in the industrial age. A legacy from when labor was exploited on factory lines. The 9 to 5 and 40 hour work week was also a legacy policy designed to prevent abuse.
But our society is transitioning away from mass produced, standardized, and face to face career pathways. We’re moving into a decentralized, project driven, and unit of time as a measurement of productivity process.
Functionally – we are moving from a period where employees sell their available time to a standard where employees now sell specific skills and finished projects.
Workers have woken up to these changes. They understand that legacy policies no longer make sense. And as a result, they increasingly don’t want to sell their time for income anymore.
They are increasingly willing to sell their time for equity. But they won’t be chained to a desk making money for someone else any longer.
COVID shattered the illusion that we’re still in the late industrial early/information age and showed that we’re deep in the Digital Age. Where time is best deployed into equity and opportunities that can profit from scale of this exponential age.
A Growing Appetite to Change How We Earn
Because of the wide adoption of social media we intuitively understand the virality of the digital age.
And we understand that once you’ve learned the “how to” mechanics of virality – you can monetize virality and live a comfortable life from it.
We are learning that the internet provides us access to a limitless variety of goods, services, and communities. This leads to a fragmentation of society along an infinite number of preferences. And we intuitively understand that this fragmentation of wants and needs creates an infinite number of opportunities to create profitable income streams.
The internet created a bountiful opportunity along the long tailed preferences of society.
The millennial and Gen Z generations grew up as digital natives. They have the principles of virality and the value proposition of long tail opportunities ingrained in their brains.
Its why we’re seeing an increasing number of example of people shifting jobs. Because the time for income equation no longer makes sense. Its lead to The Great Resignation: Why Millions of Workers Are Quitting Their Jobs : NPR
Its why Jack Butcher’s build once sell twice mantras resonate so well.
And why Naval’s tweet storm went viral.
It All Boils Down to Principles of Multiple Use
At the core of this trend is a concept called the principles of multiple use. Simply put, the internet creates leverage by allowing users to build products and services one time that can then be used multiple times.
It’s well visualized in David Perell’s 2nd tweet below on creating leverage by turning single use projects into multi use.
Societal Consequences of This Shifting Trend
How we value time impacts how we evaluate work opportunities.
It leads to changing dynamics of “in the office” knowledge work. How we interact with one another, how we manage employees, the skills required (especially focused on succinct writing), and how we play status games within our communities will change.
Changing time value preferences also likely leads to an increase in the gig economy.
As individuals try to build their own digital assets they’ll increasingly look to gig style “side hustles” to earn a survival wage along hours that better meet their time preferences. And as a result, this expansion of digital first, gig style work will likely break down the American style health insurance industry. Where individual gig workers struggle to get quality health insurance at affordable prices.
Should this happen – we may very well see this trend combine with other digital age trends to create an exodus to countries with nationalized healthcare. I doubt this will be a major exodus but it will be enough to put pressure on American legislators to make meaningful changes.
It also means a renaissance of home office refurbishing, new at home family dynamics, and promotes a more mobile lifestyle. Extended stay travel accommodations will boom and new experience-based services will emerge to service deeper experiences otherwise missed by temporary travelers.
Shifting time value mindsets also reinforce a growing wealth divide. Between the location dependent/time for income labor force and the location intendent knowledge workers.
An Accelerating Trend
We haven’t quite crossed the chasm on this trend yet. The vast majority of people are still seeking to “get back to normal” after the pandemic. But as people start going back to regular 9 to 5 policy frameworks we’ll start to see a greater push back. And as this happens, we can expect many of the societal consequences I mention above to start playing out.
I think this is a net positive change. As more people discover they can leverage digital technology to reclaim time and build themselves valuable assets, we’ll have a more happy and healthy society. But this transition will be slow moving and likely take years to enter a steady state of whatever comes next.
I’m tracking a new narrative that makes sense of society’s shift to the Digital Age. The goal: documenting how to becoming a Sovereign Individual. Giving you the facts and tools to successfully navigate digital life. I cover topics you can’t fully appreciate because you’re in the thick of it.
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