Evolving Work

Luddite.pngPoliticians claim to be able to create new jobs. I think they are ignoring a major change in human society that is being brought on by current advances in production technology. It may have taken 300 years but dumb machines, enhanced by artificial intelligence computers, are finally making the Luddites right. If we hope to avoid a violent revolution fueled by ordinary people fighting to preserve the only means of survival they know we’d better come up with some new ways to think about “work”.

Fortunately John Hagel is sharing his vision of “the big shift“. This business guru is serious about rethinking our employment structure.

Robots and AI may be the catalyst we need to finally jettison the increasingly outdated industrial model of scalable efficiency. In its place, we’ll evolve fundamentally new forms of work that tap into more our distinctively human capabilities and potential. Not only will we as individuals develop opportunities to learn faster by working together in very different ways, but our institutions will move from a world of diminishing returns to a world of increasing returns, where the more of us who join together, the faster we will all learn. Performance improvement will begin to accelerate in ways that previously would have seemed unimaginable. The technology that seems so threatening now may actually become our ally, amplifying our performance improvement by freeing us from the tasks that today keep us tightly locked into the routines of the past and providing us with the data we need to spark even more imagination and creativity. (read the whole article)

HubBubClub - 1So what will new work look like? For some of us it will be indistinguishable from play. For others it will be art and craft. For still others it will involve caring for those who can’t fend for themselves. What else will garner the big bucks? It is already becoming clear that be anything repetitive or routine — anything we can reduce to an algorithm and hand off to a computer — will no longer provide a living wage. This shift has huge implications for how we educate our children – all of our children, not just the rich and privileged.

To be continued…

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One thought on “Evolving Work

  1. This came into Facebook from Michael Kerstetter

    Nearly 10 years ago, I was in Everett at a large company Tech Expo demonstrating autonomous vehicles when a factory worker stalked up to me and told me what I was doing was going to steal his job. His anger was palpable. I wasn’t sure he wasn’t going to slug me. And I didn’t know how to respond. UAV’s per se weren’t going to affect his factory job at all, but of course he was right in that the underlying software/algorithmic concepts could just as easily be applied to factory automation, and have been. Honestly, I have felt a little guilty ever since, because for all of the winners that will come of the technology, there are inevitable losers who will be, for any number of reasons, unable to adapt to the changes inherent in “evolving work”. John Hagel’s article is interesting but I’m going to have to ponder for a while all of the implications. One thing that I suspect is that as change starts to occur, the rate of change will increase as well. I wonder how us ordinary humans will be able to keep up and be able to put food on the table and roofs overhead. Hagel mentions, “our existing institutions are constraining our ability to develop faster”, but isn’t there a point at which we just can’t change fast enough? I know people RIGHT NOW who can’t keep up. Will capitalism itself be able to survive changes in which the very definition of “work” and “productivity” and “output” change? We’re entering a time of dramatic upheaval that has the potential to make a Star Trek society a reality or to become the worst sort of dystopic nightmare. I wish there weren’t so many guns around now.

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