The Cloud Model of Employment

This past week, after a stretch of over sixteen months, I found a job.  A writing job.  It is flexible in how much work I can do, where I can do it, and the assignments could conceivably cover a wide range of subjects.  I should also point out that it comes nowhere close to replacing the income I had as a Chief Academic Officer.  Still, I am grateful to have it, and I like the company I will be working for.  ReputationDefender is involved with some of the biggest, hairiest questions and problems in the Brave, New World of cyberspace.  It has that stimulating vibe of a lot of smart, talented, creative, dedicated, and playful people working incredibly hard on a good idea.  The very archetype of a Silicon Valley startup.  I hope it stays that way for a good long while.  I think I’m going to like working with them.

Now as things stand now, it will not, as I mentioned, replace my previous employment.  In fact, it will get us into the black only inasmuch as I continue to use and cultivate the other smaller income streams I’ve developed to give our personal economy a slightly controlled ballistic trajectory.  Critics of US economic policy and practice have observed for some time that my situation is becoming the norm.  Good jobs go away, but the jobs that replace them are not quite so good.  What constitutes “job growth” can be deceptive.  Since a single person needs more than one job these days just to stay afloat, the number of new jobs created is going to be higher than the number of people who join or rejoin the ranks of the employed as a result.

The “cloud” is a term used to refer to a collection of applications and documents that reside on the web, available to the user wherever they go, independent of any given machine.  I have mixed feelings about this, but I think we can increasingly apply the concept of the cloud—with modifications—to employment.  My current panoply of income streams includes university teaching, gardening, handyman work, tutoring in Roman History, freelance writing, and a couple of other items.  This can make for a confusing situation that messes with one’s sense of identity.  It has the advantage that if one job goes wanting for a month or two, the others are still there.  It is not an ideal solution, frankly, even with my new job.  It is nominal, which I have not had since I was laid off.  No retirement, vacation, or health care, but that is the America we are evolving into, health care reform notwithstanding.  I am not yet convinced that it is either adequate or robust enough to withstand the reactionaries that would dismantle it.

We may be starting to see the decline of the specialist in the workplace. As a matter of evolutionary biology, the greatest cause of extinction is overspecialization.  This current economic depression has made mincemeat of the job market.  It is forcing a lot of people to adapt in ways they didn’t expect.   I do not expect that the jobs will recover very quickly, and many jobs are clearly gone for good.  We may even be headed for a dreaded “double-dip.”  This is the growing new reality: we are all generalists now.


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