The Precision Economy

As technology advances, human beings will have unprecedented opportunity to do impactful work.

Over the last few months, I have become increasingly interested in the future. Perhaps it was the birth of my son or just my unbridled obsession with human progress, but my thoughts have orbited what tomorrow (or 100 years) could bring and how we might prepare ourselves and our progeny to capture opportunity.

In developed nations, low-skilled wage labor has been on the decline for quite some time. Some decry this trend as the result of nefarious tehnocrats; however, a brief audit of history shows that economic change always rides in the wake of technological innovation. We shouldn't fight against the tide, but instead learn to harness its power.

Humans are terrible at most work. The history of management (and military strategy) is a testament to this. While we excel at finding solutions in novel scenarios, when tasks become repetitive and commoditized performance, productivity, and sentiment all tend to trend down in lockstep.

We evolved to survive in ecological niches, not rubber stamp stacks of papers.

Not to be another lame academic trying to coin a catchy phrase, but the Precision Economy is an idea I've been weighing as a possible successor to the Knowledge/Gig or Shared/Information economic cluster we currently exist in. The Precision Economy adopts important elements from these three, but adds an important twist: opportunities and configurations that highlight individual differences in individuals, communities, and societies.

Education and career paths are easy examples to illustrate how the Precision Economy might work. As data is collected from childhood, school systems spend less time on traditional administration, which can mostly be automated, and focus on developing education and career plans that amplify a child's talents, interests, and post-secondary opportunities. Rather than a one sized fits all process, students are permitted to learn at paces that suit them and measured against course tracks that fit their future rather than the backwards methods we see today.

The Precision Economy is about maximizing individual contribution to societal and economic development through the automation of mundane tasks and the development of human-only tasks found in many of the professional services. Rather than stocking companies full of wage-workers, economies would be responsible for training humans to take on tasks that require human nuance -- career paths that tend to be higher earning.

With companies like Amazon revolutionizing grocery stores, the natural question is, "what happens to the clerks?" Well, organizations like Amazon need expertise across the board and those wage-working jobs can easily be translated into management, legal, engineering, community outreach, and even political positions. Creative positions endemic to marketing, product development, and human-human resources are high opportunity targets as well.

How do we win in this new economy?

Post-capitalism will be a renaissance of human ability and ingenuity; therefore, putting humans in the best possible positions to succeed should be at the top of every social stakeholder. Rather than shunting our kids off to be chattel in an irreparable system, we should be investing in the individualized tracks aforementioned. Teachers are less responsible for the impossible job of instructing 270 kids and allowed to be knowledge guides. Colleges are no longer about stifling innovation or producing carbon-copy workers, but become locuses of imagination and possibility: their role becomes more idea-incubator and research specific.

Entrepreneurs and big business alike profit from the Precision Economy as well as entrepreneurs drive innovation and tailor products and services for niche markets creating jobs and big businesses serving large swathes improve efficiency, reduce human rights violations and human capital liability, while employing educated, informed, skilled labor across nations, regions, and cultures.

While we are not in the Precision Economy yet, I believe we will be in my lifetime. Organizations engaging in Precision Medicine, genetic treatments, Big Data marketing, MOOC's, curated content, self-driving vehicles, and the like are all leading the way. With even more advanced computing, digital ledgers that are publicly available and unalterable (blockchain), and innovations in neuroscience, I truly believe the world of tomorrow promises even better quality of life than imaginable.

Hopefully bad politics and global unrest don't grind these promises to a halt.


Bryce Brown

Southern California Neuropsychology Grou, 21031 Ventura Blvd, Woodland Hills, CA, 91364, United States

Bryce Brown is an consultant and partner at people + organization strategy firm Conover+Brown and executive produces learning and development channel, OrganizationTV.