For those of us alive today, our core beliefs, the way we live, and our notion of work are rooted in the way it has been for the last 250 years. To us, it has always been this way. When a transformative era emerges, we struggle to imagine a different way of doing things – even when the emerging future is begging us to think differently. One great example lies in the future of work. As we struggle to envision a world where work is no longer required, we fail to realize that History is very Instructive.Continue reading
As I continue to research the societal factors that influence our future, I’ve explored broad topics from Government Deficits to Modern Monetary Theory. Most recently, I’ve looked into something that lies at the heart of many societal ills; unemployment and underemployment. That journey led me to my most recent book titled: A Job Guarantee. I just added a book – written by Pavlina R. Tcherneva – to my Book Library. Ms. Tcherneva is an American economist of Bulgarian descent, working as associate professor and director of the Economics program at Bard College.
The phrase “The robots are coming” is often repeated these days. What does their arrival mean for the future of work? That question has short term implications, and the potential for profound long-term impacts. Ask around and you get vastly different perspectives on the question. We seem as polarized on the topic as we are about anything these days. A very good perspective was provided recently in an Article authored by Daphne Leprince-Ringuet. The article explores the possible changes to work as robots become a common feature in the work environment.
Much has been said about the shift to remote work. The permanence of the shift remains to be seen, let’s assume however that this forced experiment has been successful enough to warrant an increase in remote work percentages. What are the implications of this shift? This recent Article authored by Patrick Gray explores two possible implications.
In a virtual roundtable hosted by C-Level on May 14th, we used several polls to gain insight on how people are thinking about the post-pandemic world. The topic of the roundtable was “Rehearsing Post-Pandemic Futures.” You can view a video of the virtual roundtable Here. I posted the results of polls One and Two earlier. You can participate in those polls by visiting the posts. The third poll that we launched during the session probed the question of jobs.
I Just finished another great book. This one is titled A World Without Work authored by Economist Daniel Susskind. The author explores a phenomenon that we have discussed many times over the centuries: Technological Unemployment. Drawing on almost a decade of research in the field, Susskind argues that machines no longer need to think like us in order to outperform us, as was once widely believed. The book describes a world where more and more tasks that used to be far beyond the capability of computers – from diagnosing illnesses to drafting legal contracts, from writing news reports to composing music – are coming within their reach. Mr. Susskind tells a compelling story to support his conclusion: the threat of technological unemployment is now real.
As many focus on the future of work, various different perspectives are presented. A common theme is emerging: Jobs will be there, but they will be very different within the next decade. This recent Article draws three conclusions:
- In 10 years time, 50% of jobs will be changed by automation – but only 5% eliminated.
- 9 out of 10 jobs will require digital skills.
- Young, low-skilled and vulnerable people – all need help with up-skilling.
Several critical points are made by the World Economic Forum article:
An Article by IEEE Spectrum captured a dialog that occurred at a recent MIT conference. The topic: AI and the Future of Work. The conference discussion underscores the struggles between Techno-Optimism and Techno-Pessimism. Pessimistic when AI and automation are viewed as an industry-destroying path that takes jobs via self-driving technology, smart law algorithms, and robots that continue to put factory and warehouse workers out of work. Optimistic when those same technologies are viewed as augmentation that improves the employee experience.
The notion that a renaissance man is more important today than ever is presented in recent Research by Burning Glass Technologies. Perhaps the best renaissance man of all time was Leonardo da Vinci, who was highly esteemed for his broad knowledge of many fields. The research concludes that we must all become more da Vinci-like in our careers. Said another way: learning a single skill in isolation has a short shelf life. Learning complementary skills becomes critical in what the research describes as a hybrid job economy.
The World Economic Forum focused on wages in a recent Article that described a new Report from Hays, the world’s largest specialist recruiter. They highlight another year of change ranging from the tensions rising over trade relations between the US and China; to the uncertainty around Britain leaving the European Union; to the increasing levels of scrutiny against ’Big Tech’ and the ensuing debate surrounding privacy and content.
The IMF forecast a slowdown in global real GDP growth due in large part to the fear of the unknown. The Global Skills Index developed by Hays tracks the trends facing the global labor market. Here are some of the key findings:
In a recent Article posted on the Singularity Hub, the author describes the first report of the MIT Task Force on the Work of the Future. This group of MIT academics was set up by MIT President Rafael Reif in early 2018 to investigate how emerging technologies will impact employment and devise strategies to steer developments in a positive direction. The primary finding from this report is that it’s the quality of the jobs we should worry about – not the quantity.
I just finished a fantastic book on artificial intelligence and the evolutionary path of China and the U.S.. Author Kai-Fu Lee inspires, as he focuses on the astounding capabilities of AI, and the one thing that only humans can provide; love. The journey includes the author’s own brush with mortality, and proposes a path forward: the synthesis on which we must build our shared future is AI’s ability to think, coupled with a human’s ability to love. He believes this synergy harnesses the undeniable power of artificial intelligence to generate prosperity, while also embracing our essential humanity. His hope for our future lies both in this new synergy between artificial intelligence and the human heart, and an AI-fueled age of abundance that fosters love and compassion in our societies.
I recommend reading this book from cover to cover. In the meantime, here is a summary organized by several key themes.
A popular question these days is: Will a robot take my job? That question is as popular as: what should my child study in school? At the heart of both questions is the fear that we as a society will automate anything that can be automated. This website may help bring some clarity – at least in the context of automation risk level. It’s very quick, simply enter your job and an automation risk level expressed as a percentage will be returned.
Ultimately, these questions are difficult to answer, as we cannot predict the jobs of the future – and required skill levels could be a moving target. The progression of automation can be viewed on a spectrum from augmenting humans to fully conscious machines. There are arguments being made on both ends of this spectrum – time will tell.
I had the pleasure of recording a Podcast with AJ Goldstein on a wide ranging set of topics. The central theme was artificial intelligence. We took a journey to the future and explored several possible paths for artificial intelligence. AJ had the following kind words to say as he shared the Podcast in various channels:
Last month I had the opportunity to sit down with one of the world’s leading futurists, Frank Diana, to discuss the future of artificial intelligence.
Today the episode has been released, and it’s one of the most meaningful conversations I’ve had on the podcast.
Rather than provide a subjective one-sided view, with every question that I asked about the future of AI, Frank responded with presenting both sides. He helped me understand “what does the optimist say?”, “what does the pessimist say?”, “what is the utopian view?”, “what’s the dystopian view?”… and in this way it quickly became one of the most balanced conversations I’ve had the chance to be a part of.
With over 30+ years of experience to pull from, Frank provided so many fascinating lenses through which to view our changing future… all the while outlining an insightful playbook of what we can do as individuals, communities, and societies to prepare for the inevitable change that’s going to come.
AJ drove the discussion on the following topics:
- Addressing the two tipping points that have occurred thus far in humanity and changed what it means to be human– and the coming third tipping point.
- Addressing some of the common fears that people have about the implications of advanced AI and robotics on the future.
- How the shift to an automated society might cause initial elimination of jobs, but ultimately will allow more time for pursuit of creative, entrepreneurial endeavors.
- A discussion on the characteristics needed to succeed in a world of change, and what you personally should do to prepare for it.
Enjoy the show!
In a recent book titled The Future of Work, author Darrell M. West describes the Work 2.0 scenario on this emerging future visual. In exploring possible implications of a shifting work paradigm, he gets prescriptive about possible responses. This implication-response exercise sits at the heart of Future Thinking.
No one can predict this complex and uncertain future – but exercises like this help us see possible futures. In seeing them, we position ourselves to proactively shape them. In the context of work, Mr. West explores several possible responses, including another future scenario which he calls Republic 2.0. How this scenario plays out has a direct impact on the path of other scenarios. The scenario speaks to a new kind of politics. Mr. West states:
I just added another very good book to the Book Library: The Future of Work: Robots, AI, and Automation. Author Darrell M. West looks at a world in which our current views of work change. He explores the implications to our social contract and the policy decisions so critical to revising that contract for a new era. Structural change – which Mr. West explores in the book – has long been a tenet of my work. The future of many of our institutions will either change by our proactive acknowledgement that they must change – or they will be undermined.
The conversation so nicely positioned by our author is one that must happen at all levels of leadership. This does not have to be a Utopian versus Dystopian discussion. Rather, like the major disruptive periods of our past, leaders need to lead.
It’s been over a year since launching an Online Course focused on a complex and uncertain future. The course takes a Journey through the Looking Glass – a metaphorical expression that means: on the strange side, in the twilight zone, in a strange parallel world. It comes from the Alice and Wonderland literary work of Lewis Carroll, where he explores the strange and mysterious world Alice finds when she steps through a mirror. I have always found this to be a perfect metaphor for our times.
Every time the looking glass has appeared, the world has experienced a Tipping Point. While I firmly believe a tipping point is coming, the impact is likely a question of severity. Some believe that we have survived similar economic transitions in the past, while others disagree: