One of the less-discussed Super Bowl ads was this one from CarMax, dramatizing the declining customer service standards at gas stations:
As is often the case, this is a kind of covert nostalgia for a past time when people were poorer. This work can function as a stand-in for lavish customer service precisely because it’s so unproductive and wasteful of human time and effort. But as better machines and better education have raised economy-wide productivity and wage levels, it’s become pointless to employ people doing this kind of thing. This is, however, a reminder that in a world where manufacturing output rises even as manufacturing employment falls that the jobs of the future are mostly going to be in the service sector, the sector that employs the vast majority of people even in Germany.
The issue is what kind of service sector jobs will people be able to do? A wiping your car’s windowshield needs very few skills but also is producing very little value and won’t earn much money. A yoga instructor, a chef, a plumber, a dental hygienist, or an interior designer is someone with more skills and more earning potential. What’s more, in the more productive future we’ll be able to afford more restaurant meals, and yoga lessons. We’ll be able to afford cleaner teeth and better-designed homes.