Stories of young adults facing the realities of advancing in today’s work world (like this one here) bring to mind one of the worst aspects of working in the silos of the Industrial Age. Those of us who want to make a living off of our desire to excel in multiple fields are constantly reminded that having anything more than a monotonous list of the same roles on our résumé or LinkedIn profile page is the “kiss of death.” Yet, those of us who count ourselves as polymaths have experienced how expertise in one field, through providing a fresh perspective and broadened understanding, enables us to make valuable contributions to work in another. Wouldn’t it be great to live in a world where we can point to our multifaceted experiences, flexible minds, and insatiable curiosity as advantages and be taken seriously? Continue reading
One question telework advocates often entertain but can’t definitively answer is, “When will working anywhere and anytime gain more widespread acceptance?” Having researched this topic extensively, I’ve seen plenty of predictions that didn’t come to pass. Moreover, many are scratching their heads asking questions along the lines of, “Why hasn’t this happened already? We had the technological capability back in…” Yes, to a great extent, we are still working like it’s 1980. Furthermore, others muse that it will take a disaster of epic proportions (e.g., major natural disaster, pandemic, etc.) for the powers that be to change the way we work.
We know that new ideas and situations are scary to many, however I wanted to go beyond the scariness factor. Delving into factors that come into play with regard to coming up with a good, educated guess only opened up more issues to think about. Upon researching why it’s so difficult to predict if and when innovations gain acceptance, I came upon this wonderful explanation of factors which provided much fodder for thinking about the issue of resistance to telework. Excerpt: Continue reading
A couple of months ago, I mentioned that Nathan Myhre would be contributing art that represents the life of the average Industrial Age knowledge worker. I say “Industrial Age” even when it comes to post-Industrial parts of the world because we’re still bidding a long and difficult farewell to the Industrial Age work-style with most knowledge workers coming, going, and working essentially the same work-shift (9-to-5). What’s the alternative? Harness and utilize today’s technology to give workers more control over where and when they work as well as to work more productively. Continue reading
Are you a technological evolutionist, catastrophist, or transformationist? This post will go over the meaning of these worldviews against the backdrop of technological advancement and globalization as considered by Great Transitions: The Promise and Lure of the Times Ahead (Rasin, P.; Banuri, T.; Gallopin, G.; Gutman, P.; Hammond, A.; Kates, R.; & Swart, R.; 2002).
In comparing the magnitude of the current technological transition to previous major transitions (e.g., stone age to early civilization and early civilization to the current modern era), Great Transitions, which is available here, introduces six worldviews with respect to technological advances, each describing a possible future. These worldviews encompass various philosophical and political thoughts including, “technological optimists and pessimists, market celebrants and Cassandras, social engineers and anarchists. Crudely, archetypal social philosophies can be placed in three broad streams – the evolutionary, the catastrophic, and the transformational…” (p. 9) and these are explained further below (pp. 9-10): Continue reading
Over the weekend, I went on a YouTube binge trying to identify the most informative videos on the future of work. This actually took quite a bit of time investment but guess I’m just obsessive like that! I selected the following videos on the basis of quality of content as well as diversity of opinions, hoping to cover the positive and negative aspects of work in the near future. These videos were also selected for conciseness as I know that not everyone can (or wants to) watch a bunch of hour-long videos (although there are some great lectures out there!). I’ve listed the videos in no particular order and have, instead, attempted categorization on the basis of what target audience might be most interested. They are all still worth watching regardless of who you are however! Enjoy! Continue reading
Is it conceivable? Thinking of a way to reconstruct a society in which all the work is being performed by technology makes for an interesting thought exercise indeed. However, some thinkers (such as Andrew McAfee in his TED presentation – see my previous post “The Move Towards Self-Employment“) do see the possibility of a life where people are freed up to do other things. Can the currently assumed exchange between work and consumption be broken? Can the current unemployment situation be but a painful transition on to a life that is ultimately better? If money no longer mattered, perhaps some people would still be working and striving, but for different rewards (such as popularity or mere thrill of competition) as one of my conversation partners hypothesized. This possibility has optimists exclaiming “100% unemployment now!” However if we are striving towards this type of society, one of the worst risks we take is that our creations turn on us and we live out an event akin to “The Terminator: Rise of the Machines.” On the other hand, the way we currently work is already ruining people’s health and therefore slowly killing a good number of us so, if things keep going the way they are, the issue of our welfare becomes moot. Check out this interesting blog post, “Is 100% unemployment realistic, desirable, and statelessly doable?”
Originally posted on In defense of anagorism:
I find it hard to imagine a situation in which all real needs can be satisfied without any work being performed by people. I find it equally hard to believe that we will ever see full employment; understood to mean enough jobs to go around. Automation is real, and it’s inconceivable to me that the future needs all of us. Thus, as long as we are living under a market economy, some of us will be expendable.
Kurt Vonnegut envisioned this scenario in Player Piano, in which people not in-demand enough to merit a paying gig were relagated to the humiliation and indignity of the “Reeks and Wrecks,” a make-work program created to provide the illusion of being a contributing member of society, but the illusion wore thin rather quickly. In Player Piano, the “engineers and managers” are the last dominos left standing. As the nightmare is materializing right now, it looks more like nursing is the hardest occupation to automate.
It seems apparent that somewhere between the staffed economy and the unstaffed economy is the partially staffed economy. With substantiated complaints of “jobless recovery” for at least three economic cycles, I’d say we’re definitely in that middle zone right now. I think we are managing this transition in the least humane way imaginable. Instead of dividing the reduced workload, some can’t get out of mandatory overtime while others can’t get out of part time employment, and the market denies still others any employment at all.
Nowadays you don’t have to search very hard to find well-respected thinkers forecasting the decline of traditional employment and a corresponding rise in self-employment. Daniel Pink, author of Free Agent Nation: The Future of Working For Yourself, had been tracking the decreasing average “half-life” of organizations well before this book was published in 2001. During his time as former speechwriter for Al Gore, he was one of the first to see the information that the Bureau of Labor Statistics churned out on a weekly basis. The relationship between organizations and employees is changing thanks to technological advancement and, in particular, the Internet. Pink foresees a future in which a great proportion of the population will be working as contractors, getting together and working on one project, dispersing when the project ends, then getting together with a different group to work on another project in the fashion of film crews. Here is Daniel Pink discussing this scenario in the following video: Continue reading