Sep 25, 2017 | The three-legged stool

Today, the concept of a job is far from the original concept at the times of the industrial revolution. Back then, a worker was a person who wakes up in the morning and leaves their household for most of the day, in order to sell their time in an exchange for a salary. Having a job meant physical work. Today, the job market is much more diverse – complex but also full of possibilities. Globalization and public access to the internet caused that jobs can take all forms of activity. For instance, you might record one prank and post it on YouTube, and if that prank gets very popular, you might not be in a necessity to work at all – till the end of your life. Moreover, since you have public access to information through the internet, you might spot a better career opportunity for yourself, and hop to any other country at any moment. As more and more freelance jobs can be held remotely, without attending any office, more and more freelancers work only from home. Also, the development of AI and the automatization of production caused that there is no necessity for a large portion of the jobs that were very popular before, especially at production lines in old-school factories. Is this actually good or bad for humankind?

Recently, Elon Musk has become a proponent of the basic income idea. This idea involves a concept that – since the amount of jobs available for a human is constantly decreasing – all people should receive a basic income which would allow them to survive, without holding a formal job. But, what would a job mean then? Would people still work, even though they do not technically need to do this? The idea of the basic income incorporates the assumption that people have in inherent need to be useful for society, and to work – even if technically, they do not need to do anything at all in order to survive. I can see some hints that this assumption might actually be true, although there are huge differences between Poland and the Netherlands in this subject-matter.

Namely, the Netherlands is a very highly developed country a large portion of the society (especially of middle-age ladies) consciously decides to work part-time and not full-time. So, what do the Dutch do with all the free time that they have? NL has very high statistics in terms of charity donations per person, and it is a good habit to be a part of a charity, especially during retirement. Therefore, millions of Dutch donate a part of their free time to charity.

On the other hand, Poland is too poor and the salaries are too low for the citizen to work part-time. Therefore, another model of labor – a three-leg model – has recently developed instead. In this model, you hold your daily job: a profession you do that can offer you a certain income and an environment. You need to have a craft, something that defines you as a person, and a daily job fulfills this need. The second leg is yet another, a part-time job which is mostly the source of income. It does not need to be an activity that you find fulfilling or pleasant; its main purpose is to make as much money per unit of time as possible. Ideally, it should be some form of passive income. After you have these two legs to stand on, you can think of the last, third leg: something that you are doing to feel like a good person who contributes to the society; some form of a charity which does not yield any profits but gives a sense of satisfaction instead.

Even though I have been living in the Netherlands for the last six years, this latter model is more natural to me as I was raised in the Polish culture. In my case, the first leg of the stool is science. I wanted to be a scientist since I was six years old, and I am quite confident that I will never lose the taste for doing research. And, there is something absolutely special about the scientific community as well. Yes, scientists are awkward, they can be antisocial and can be a bit narrow-minded – which is a pity given how intelligent they truly are at the same time. But, at the same time, they are also naturally curious and this eternal spirit of a child play in academia is what makes them so special. And, I feel like a scientist, with all the peculiarities that this implies. My second leg is personal investments. I have a stable income now, and with time, it is only getting better and better – especially once encountering more and more people similar to me, those who share my interests in terms of making personal investments and developing the passive income.

And now, the time has come for finding the third, missing leg for my stool to be stable. What would that be? I have never been a fan of a traditional charity. In my view, typically, most of the donated money leaks somewhere in the chain between the donor and the receiver, and only a small portion eventually reaches the destination. Therefore, I will probably never really donate to a charity, and I would rather define a particular problem and focus on solving it instead. And, academia is an area of public life that I know best. In the past few years, I noticed a lot of dysfunctionalities in academia which should be fixed but by now, they are not. The question is: did these problems arise because they just cannot be fixed, or simply, no one just got round to them? Time to find out.

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