Future job prosperity: 13 reasons to believe in a positive future of work


Many are crying doom about the future of work. I believe that a highly prosperous future of job is possible. It is even likely, on condition we do the right things today.

In order to create that future, we must believe it is possible. In this mini-report I have distilled the major arguments that a prosperous future of jobs is possible.

You can download the report from the image or read the full text below.

Please let me know any thoughts on how to refine or improve this, or counter-arguments I can respond to, so I can continue to make the arguments more solid. You can message me where I shared the report on LinkedIn and Twitter.

Creating a positive future of work

Many fear that AI disruption will lead to widespread job losses, the erosion of the quality of work, and increasing work inequity.

Despite these concerns there are a wide range of factors that point to the potential for a highly positive future of work. All of these factors will be amplified by being clear and deliberate in building a ‘Humans + AI’ future where AI is used to complement humans.

This mini-report presents a range of compelling arguments for why future job prosperity is possible, perhaps even likely.

Seeing the potential for a positive future is a necessary enabler to taking the action that will make it happen.

Key concepts

Automation vs. Augmentation: AI can be deployed with the intent of replacing human work, or of complementing it to enhancing human capabilities and increase their value.

Job Polarization: We have long observed an growing divide between high-skill, high-wage jobs and low-skill, low-wage jobs. AI use could aggravate that gap but could also close it.

Skill Premium: The pay premium for those with superior skills will be impacted by AI, by commoditizing an array of tasks and enhancing the marketable skills of workers who use AI well.

Adaptability and Learning: A faster pace of change requires even higher levels of adaptability and learning, with support needed for all or most to make required transitions.

1. The potential of Humans + AI

Rather than considering humans and AI as potential competitors in value-creation, we can and should focus entirely on a ‘Humans + AI’ framing, in which we seek to maximize the value of humans by being complemented by AI.

In almost all domains humans and AI collaborating will generate superior outcomes.

There is a rapidly growing movement of inspiring leaders, thinkers, and doers putting their energy into designing and implementing the structures that will generate the best outcomes from humans and AI working together.

2. AI enhances value-generating skills

AI can be used for “intelligence augmentation” and task support, substantially increasing the value created by human labor. Those who use AI to enhance their value contribution will be able to maintain or even grow their skill premia.

Many research studies across different industries have shown that AI usually gives a higher boost to work capabilities and outcomes to lower-skilled workers, narrowing the differential between the value of their work.

The unbounded scope of GenAI means this skill enhancement can be applied to any work from routine to complex, including even physical labor.

3. Creation of new jobs

As has happened as the economy has evolved through human history, new jobs are being created at an extraordinary pace. The faster the pace of change, the more new jobs are created.

Many rapidly growing roles, such as telehealth nurse, digital identity specialist, mobile money agent, augmented reality designer, and data-driven personal trainer, barely existed a few years ago.

Some of the many jobs being created include neural interface designer, AI auditor, cognitive enhancement coach, AI ethics officer, prompt engineer, and far more. We cannot readily predict what new jobs will emerge, but we can be sure they will plentiful.

4. Unique human capabilities at the fore

The increasing use of GenAI will lead people to define and refine their unique value contribution in both employment and freelance work.

In pre-GenAI work people’s skills were applied more diffusely and consistently to defined tasks and outputs. In collaborative work with AI, people will find different and more pointed ways to complement AI, focusing on their most distinctive human and individual capabilities.

The use of AI will draw out and refine people’s unique capabilities working collaboratively with AI, increasing the specificity of their value creation.

5. Specialization reduces substitutability

A key factor driving prices and wages is substitutability. If equivalent work outcomes can be achieved by substitutes, for examples by other people, outsourcing, or AI, the result will be downward pressure on wages.

As we shift to more distinctive and unique human capabilities, accelerated by AI education tools, it will be harder to substitute individual workers.

The most successful companies will be designing work to tap specialist skills, as commoditized work will create commoditized products and services with no competitive advantage.

6. Enhanced education and learning

One of the most powerful and valuable applications of AI is providing personalized education, assisting both those who already have access to quality education as well as the many around the world who do not.

This democratized availability of learning tools will assist people to improve their existing marketable skills, and swiftly develop new capabilities as these increase in value in a shifting job marketplace.

7. Comparative advantage

The economic theory of comparative advantage states that individuals, organizations, or nations should focus on tasks where they have the greatest efficiency differential over others.

Even if AI is better than humans at every task, it should be applied where its economic advantage is greatest. This will still leave ample jobs for humans where AI’s advantage is smaller.

Taken to an extreme, this is an argument around energy allocation. Humans are currently far more energy-efficient than AI. If this dynamic changes, regulation may be required to ensure humans have access to the resources they need to compete.

8. Attraction of talent

Companies can take two broad approaches to the role of AI in work: emphasizing substituting workers with AI, or complementing workers with AI.

The former will experience increasing difficulty in attracting talent.

The latter will attract the best talent.

In a world of AI, the ability to attract top talent, not least to implement the best AI systems, will be an even greater differentiator of performance than in the past. Companies will succeed based on their attitude to human labor relative to AI.

9. Work redesign

There are major risks in current prevailing work structures based on tightly defined job roles. These tend to favor automation over complementing skills.

By understanding the potential value of AI in enhancing value creation organizations can reconceive the future shape of the organization, the specific human roles that will support that, and how to deploy their talent the most effectively.

Those companies that engage pre-emptively in this task reorganization will be massively advantaged as value creation shifts to ‘Humans + AI’ models.

10. Humans’ extraordinary adaptability

Humans have proven to be exceptionally adaptable to a vast array of rapid changes in their environment, from the Ice Age to human-created transitions from gunpowder, steel, steam, and a multitude of other inventions. When we needed,we adapted extremely swiftly to Covid and adopted remote and flexible work.

In his 1970 book Future Shock, Alvin Toffler suggested that the pace of change would lead to a state of individual societal shock. In the decades since then and still today we have proven to be exceptionally resilient to accelerating change.

Humans are defined by our unlimited adaptability. We will continue to demonstrate that through shifts present and future.

11. Emotional intelligence and human connection

There are many roles where ‘humanity’ and emotional engagement is expected and strongly desired, including in personal services, health and aged care, and education. People want to be inspired by a human teacher or supported by a human carer than their AI counterparts.

Organizations can only be effective if their leaders and employees have strong social and emotional skills to engage, collaborate, ideate, and create an environment where people want to work.

Every business depends on their customer relationships. Trust and loyalty requires human connection and emotional engagement.

12. Preference for human work

Over and above humans’ unique human capabilities of emotional intelligence and connection, people will continue to want and prefer humans to do many kinds of work for them.

For many roles, even if machines equal or exceed human performance, we will still want and prefer humans. Customers will prefer to read books by human writiers, to work with a human financial advisor, and human waiters to robot waiters, however witty their repartee.

People are already demonstrating their willingness to pay a premium for human rather than automated services. In an increasingly automated world that premium will increase substantially.

13. Design for inclusive economic prosperity

Productivity increases have increasingly gone to corporations rather than workers over the last decades, with substantially higher wealth concentration. There are absolutely risks of increased concentration in economic power with the rise of AI.

One counterpoint is that the wealthiest corporations and individuals benefit from prosperity being more rather than less evenly distributed. A growing base of affluent consumers is required to fuel any business’s growth. Everyone loses in a world of massive social fragmentation.

Everyone will be aligned in designing for inclusive economic prosperity, however we achieve that.

Action for future job prosperity

The future of work is open for us to create. Nothing is inevitable

The first step is to acknowledge the challenges and also to explore and understand the forces and factors that could lead to future job prosperity.

Enormous positive possibilities are open to us. We can create a world in which people enjoy their work more, there are more opportunities for individuals, and human potential is uncovered and expressed more than ever.

How we act now, as corporate and government leaders, entrepreneurs, and individuals, will shape our future.