An investigation into the unspoken truths about the Future of Work — and what this means for how we live, learn, earn
Future of Work: what it is and why it’s important
Let me tell you two very short stories…
- During World War 2, Person Spercey was a physicist working on radar. One day he was in his Lab and he observed that the chocolate bar by the magnetron he was working on had started to melt. Spercey’s discovery led him to invent the microwave oven. He was able to do so by connecting his understanding of electromagnetic radiation with a random observation.
- In 2018, social entrepreneur Leila Janah launched Samasource, a not-for-profit business with the mission to reduce global poverty. Samasource breaks down large digital projects into smaller tasks and trains its staff from disadvantaged backgrounds to perform these tasks. Like image annotation: for eight hours a day each day, slum dwellers in Nairobi painstakingly tag an ongoing stream of images fed to them on a desktop.
These two stories sit in stark contrast to one another: the former speaks to the unrivalled human skills of imagination, the associative and lateral thinking and the creative synthesis which fuelled Spercey’s invention. The latter speaks to basic human knowledge fed to the machines. The former has one curious mind aiding millions of families. The latter thousands of unengaged minds uplifting their families out of poverty. What ethical stance we take on both scenarios and
how we choose to shape the future of man-machine interaction will dictate for the long term, “whether AI will infantilise or liberate humanity” (or what kind of humanity AI will infantilise and what kind it will liberate).
My starting point is this: whatever the future you believe in, be it one where lab-food will substitute organic food or not; our bodies will be enhanced through AI implants or not; we will be living on planet Earth or a different one, we must choose how to design our economies (production, distribution and regulation of goods and services) and our society (family and workforce structure, etc.) in relation to the purpose we want to give to our time. And the meaning we choose for our lives. What will save us from feeling irrelevant and further exacerbate the current mental health crisis and societal fault lines?
This is a question we must answer for ourselves (and for our children) today. Because — for now, the future is in our hands. Literally. We are coding it away every day, line by line.
This blog series is my effort to collate facts that paint likely scenarios of man-machine interaction in the future, offer my observations and present evidence of practice about what I find is the missing link in many a Future of Work conversations: life-long and life-wide learning.
What child brain development has got to do with this
One year ago, I had a child. In preparation for the event, I thought I owed it to my son to start reading about child development and development psychology — the scientific study of how and why human beings change over the course of their life. What I realised very soon, is that I owed it to myself too.
Historically, the field of development psychology started from a focus on the child but soon developed into a wholistic study of life-long development, acknowledging that our premise as humans is the potential to constantly grow in our abilities.
Maternity itself for me proved a tremendous developmental experience. I write about it in this blog series. And, as a mum, what I realised was that:
helping my child cultivate a growth mindset was the biggest gift I could leave with him, in an effort to help him thrive in an uncertain future.
This blog series
With this series, I would like to start a conversation about the Future of Work. And in an exercise of self-discipline, I am organising what I have come across in these 5, living chapters. Please read and share if you care!
- Framing the Future of Work — key facts and what thought leaders tell us
- Government Response — how governments are rising to the challenge, or not
- Industry’s Response —emerging market signals and early industry experiments
- The White Space — what we don’t hear enough about
- Call to action
(Also on this theme, this week I have attended an executive masterclass on Creative Leadership by the wonderful Rama Gheerawo @ RCA. And I look forward to sharing my learnings here.)