The New York Post has just published an article titled Prepare for a world without work, based on an interview with me.
Below are some excerpts from the article delve into what I describe as the “post-work economy”, with some further comemnts:
Driverless cars are set to make millions of truckers and taxi drivers redundant and automated fast food service is poised to shut off a key job sector for young people. As artificial intelligence is increasingly able to carry out complex tasks that used to require humans, large numbers of us are set to find ourselves out of work, with no prospects.
“Many jobs will be destroyed,” futurist Ross Dawson told news.com.au. “We can no longer be sure we’ll have a sufficient amount of the right type of work for people to be employed.”
While the risk is there, this is absolutely not inevitable. My Humans in the Future of Work framework describes the capabilities and types of work we need to develop as traditional work is eroded.
Governments are already in discussions over how we can stay relevant in a world where tech has overtaken the human brain.
The shift toward a huge portion of the population being unemployed will create a string of problems. In terms of finances, we may have to introduce a Universal Basic Income (UBI): a trendy concept being tested in Finland, the Netherlands and Canada, in which every citizen is paid a flat wage, whether they are employed or not.
The idea of a “mincome” (minimum income) is controversial because it is unclear whether it would be more cost-effective than our current welfare system. But if the majority of the population is on the dole, our view on taxing workers to fund the unemployed may have to change.
The recent launch of Finland’s Universal Basic Income experiment is just the beginning of many more trials to see if the concept can work. It is remarkable how swiftly the concept has come to global public awareness over the last two years. Despite the promise, it is far from clear the current momentum will continue.
Dawson warns the shift could open up a wider chasm between the elite who work and those who do not, since we typically define our worth by what we do.
“This will accelerate the potential for a divide,” he says. “And the polarization of wealth.”
Since we all want to feel valued, we will need to find a way to give people a purpose outside of work, in other aspects of society.
This is perhaps the biggest challenge. Beyond avoiding an excessive polarization of income, we need to provide opportunities for people to tap and express their human potential, and be recognized for this. A divide in feelings of social worth could be as devastating as one of wealth.
In the short term, we need to find roles in which humans can feel productive. This requires looking at where we still outstrip machines: in expertise, creativity and relationships, for example.
One of our most potent offerings is world-class education, according to Dawson. We have the ability to take a leading role in making sure schools are preparing for the radically different world of the future, and exporting adult education to the world.
There is much that we can do to avoid the biggest pitfalls of a post-work economy, and making it a positive world. Let’s use our insights into how work may evolve to shape it in a positive way.