rewiring work

“Machines that learn (limited AGI) will obsolete ‘jobs’ FASTER than entrepreneurs can make them and people can retrain to fill them.”John Robb

We need to rewire how we work. The machines are getting much better at the old world of work than we can ever be. Automation is the driver. Offshoring and outsourcing are temporary conditions until all routine labour gets replaced by software and machines.

“Since the processes of automation and offshoring will most likely continue, it is expected that the disappearance of routine jobs in the U.S. will also continue. Understanding the impact of polarization on the labor market is important and remains an active topic of economic research.” – Federal Reserve Bank of St Louis


The good news is that humans can do certain things better than machines can, even artificially intelligent ones. I call this type of work ‘Talent’, based on curiosity, creativity, and empathy. Machines are better at what has been traditionally called ‘Labour’, based on diligence, intelligence, and compliance. Any part of human work that can be automated, in time will be taken over by machines and code. If you are doing the same thing from day to day, your job will be eaten by software. Algorithms are learning by observing how humans work, and then eventually replacing them.

“What job is hardest for a robot to do? Mental health and substance abuse social workers (found under community and social services). This job has a 0.3 percent chance of being automated. That’s because it’s ranked high in cleverness, negotiation, and helping others. The job most likely to be done by a robot? Telemarketers. No surprise; it’s already happening.”  – NPR Planet Money

The old jobs are not coming back. There will no longer be high paying jobs for routine physical or cognitive work. In addition, the new world of work, particularly platform capitalism, requires fewer people.

Frey observes that technology is leading to a rarification of leading-edge employment, where fewer and fewer people have the necessary skills to work in the frontline of its advances. “In the 1980s, 8.2% of the US workforce were employed in new technologies introduced in that decade,” he notes. “By the 1990s, it was 4.2%. For the 2000s, our estimate is that it’s just 0.5%. That tells me that, on the one hand, the potential for automation is expanding – but also that technology doesn’t create that many new jobs now compared to the past.”’ – The Guardian

For the past century, the job was the way we redistributed wealth and protected workers from the negative aspects of early capitalism. As the information economy disappears, we need to re-think our concepts of work, income, employment, and most importantly education. If we do not find ways to help citizens lead productive lives, our society will face increasing destabilization.

“Whoever owns the capital will benefit as robots and AI inevitably replace many jobs. If the rewards of new technologies go largely to the very richest, as has been the trend in recent decades, then dystopian visions could become reality. But the machines are tools, and if their ownership is more widely shared, the majority of people could use them to boost their productivity and increase both their earnings and their leisure. If that happens, an increasingly wealthy society could restore the middle-class dream that has long driven technological ambition and economic growth.” – MIT Technology Review

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The challenge is to make all work more human. It starts with our education systems moving away from a standardized (routine) curriculum toward unique experiences for each student. The aim of public education should be to develop curiosity, creativity, and empathy in every child. The challenge moves on to our legislators who have to create an economic system that does not separate financial capital from human work. Companies are nothing but organized human beings. Financial capital, like money, is a commonly agreed-upon fiction. As a society, we can create new stories about capital. Businesses can take the lead by experimenting with new work models to show others the way. If we do not do these things, it is clear that the polarized labour market will continue, and the dystopian vision of only a few owning the robots may prevail.

Related Reading

The Future of Human Work

2 Responses to “rewiring work”

  1. Charles Ndung'u

    I couldn’t agree more. For us to remain relevant we must come up with ingenuous ways to counter the current technological advances which threaten to edge us out of the traditional learning and working enviroment


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