From gig work to bounty work – enter the new, new era of work

Posted by Flux on 

15 November 2018

What’s trending now?
The nature of work is changing, again.

The baby boomer generation enjoyed secure, salaried work, with a golden handshake and a company-sponsored pension to look forward to at retirement.

The millennial generation went on to – by both choice and circumstance – embrace the gig economy.

According to LinkedIn, by 2020, 40% of all the profiles listed on its platform will be part of the gig economy, involved in some sort of project-based, freelance or other non-salaried work.

Now, Generation Z is facing yet another shift, this time from gig work to bounty work.

With bounty work, instead of submitting a CV, pitching for work, and moving through an (often subjective) tender and job application process to win a gig or land a job, tomorrow’s hires will work on a proof-of-work basis.

In other-words, the first person to complete the task properly according to the client’s specifications, gets paid for it. Simple as that.

The origins
The bounty worker mindset has emerged from the tech industry and is being popularised and enabled by the booming global blockchain industry.

People familiar with the way blockchain-based crypto currencies operate, will be familiar with the concept of “proof-of-work”. With proof-of-work systems, participants are rewarded for solving complex computerised calculations before anyone else in the network does. The rest of the network checks and verifies the solution to confirm the “winner” deserves the reward.

Blockchain-based smart contracts which automate agreements, can then be used to automate payments for the proof-of-work (or bounty) winners.

Proof-of-work assignments operate in a similar way.

Clients and recruiters post a problem that needs solving, or define a task that needs completing and set a reward, or bounty, for completing the mission. The first person to complete the work according to the brief gets the reward. There are two notable differences here to the traditional hiring process: firstly, the client does not get to choose who gets the job. Secondly, the worker does not get to negotiate the payment. They can only accept or reject the challenge.

The pioneers
Many (if not most) crypto companies and blockchain platforms offer bug bounties, that is, a reward for reporting bugs or vulnerabilities in the system. Among them are crypto-community smart-contract stalwart, Ethereum and its newcomer rival platform, Tezos, (billed as the world’s first self-amending cryptographic ledger).

Google’s Android Security Rewards Programme which promises to pay anyone who can find security bugs in Google’s Android code, is another early example of the trend.

There are also several bug-bounty networks which connect bounty hunters with rewards. Bug Crowd publishes a comprehensive list of available bug bounties for aspirant bounty hunters.

The Bounties Network, similarly, is a blockchain-based platform that connects prospective job hunters with job bounty offers.

However, the bounty mindset is not limited to technology companies: any task with a single, quantifiable solution can become bounty work. For example, an e-hailing service that stipulates that the first driver to get to a particular place gets to pick up the fare could be considered bounty work.

What’s the butterfly effect?
In essence, in the bounty work era, hopeful job applicants face a quantitative race rather than a qualitative audition.

Bounty work recruitment rewards talent and reduces subjective bias in the hiring process. As such, bounty work should be very attractive to hard-working, talented workers from minority groups who currently find themselves excluded from our current popularity-based recruitment processes.

At the same time a bounty job market will be terrifying to people who have, to date, managed to get work and land plum promotions based on their charm, attractiveness and ability to brown-nose their way up the corporate ladder alone.

Job bounties are going to disrupt the job market. Workers, unions, policy makers and recruiters are not adequately prepared for the consequences of this new way of working.

By Bronwyn Williams

About Bronwyn

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Image credit: Alex Kotliarskyi

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