Politicians talk about jobs of the future all the time.  I wonder.  Especially after reading Brad Stone’s report in Bloomberg Businessweek, “My Life as a Task Rabbit.” And what might that be? It’s all about what their CEO calls “service networking.” Their video explains: 

If the video doesn’t play, you can click here
Leah Busque, Task Rabbit  Founder

Meet Leah Busque, Task Rabbit’s founder and CEO. Yes, she quit her day job with IBM to follow her dream. Yes, her idea is really cool for time-stretched achievers like herself. And her help-needed solution is very innovative, using the web and smart phones to manage all the transactions, thereby updating the biz of “temp work.”  Businessweek’s Brad Stone summed it up as “a uniquely American safety net for the unemployed or underemployed, who will now have somewhere to turn when they need to make money.” True. But I wonder if this approach is also an example of where a lot of our jobs are headed?  

Here’s what I mean: the new bunny taskers are all independent contractors who compete with each other as they bid on jobs with the lowest bidder getting the work. So labor becomes a commodity for sale at the lowest cost. And the workers have no security, no health care and often no way to shine based on ability. They are labor, pure and simple. And to get the task they have to bid low, work hard and fast, and take as many jobs as they can. Does any of this sound familiar? 

So what should we glean from all this? First of all, innovation doesn’t always make things better. Second, there is at least a generation or two of us in these distressed times that are trying to deal with this issue right now.  

Which brings us to a successful Kickstarter campaign by Aaron Cassara to make a film called Barista. The movie’s plucky heroine wants to quit her job at Starbucks and reinvent her life – until she’s diagnosed with MS and has to stay there for the health care coverage. As Aaron describes it, “Barista is … a generational narrative about the precarious service worker. It’s about the crippling costs of health care and education, about paying the bills in a lagging economy while still trying to move forward.” Here’s the trailer:

If the video doesn’t play, you can click here.

Well, we must be on to something here, because the plight of these folks is quickly becoming a brand. Or let’s just say, a brand marketing snatch of issue. As you’ll see in Benetton’s new campaign for Unemployee of the Year. Below is the video version.

If the video doesn’t play, click here.

So what’s the takeaway? Well, there are many truths, often contradictory, that exist at the same time. Clearly the web, via Kickstarter, has opened the door wide to young filmmakers like Aaron Cassara. And yes, some people will benefit from operations like Task Rabbit. But as we’ve seen in the local video community here in Washington, DC, as older companies go out of business, more nimble ones spring up. Lower standards and cheaper gear also reduce the barriers to entry. And day rates for production people are about the same or lower than they were 10 years ago.  So the bunny biz has spilled over to the freelancers who populate the video production industry too. 

And at the same time as all this is happening, there is a real blossoming of creative energy and enterprise.  As we’ll see in my next post.