A Barrage of Reports on the Future of Work

Looks like the future is about 15 minutes away, or less.

2018–04–09 Beacon NY — In just the past few days, I’ve come across no less that three new reports on the future of work. They are coming from all points of the compass, and I haven’t had a chance to read them in detail, but the first order takeaway is that the domain of discourse we call ‘the future of work’ is now ground zero for a broad spectrum of policy, economic, and sociological debates.

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Comments from Readers

Phil Wolff (self-styled ‘GDPR wonk and wearer of appropriately industrial chic in the Pacific Northwest’) chimes in on dress codes:

Phil is referring to the time I auctioned off my body-as-billboard for 220 days, agreeing to wear sponsors’ t-shirts. I had to use a spreadsheet since I randomized which days they got.

Jim Meredith goes along with commentary from Peggy Noonan about Zuck’s dress in :

I am not really down with Noonan’s perspective. I don’t buy the notion that t-shirt, jeans, hoodie is the dress of children: it was originally clothing of the working class, later adopted by left-leaning artists and the counter-culture, and now the de facto mass, informal clothing style, and still, the clothing of the working class, too.

Still and again, clothing styles change. A hundred years ago, today’s formal business suit would have been too informal for questioning in Congress. So-called morning dress would have been required: morning coat, waistcoat, striped trousers, and hat. Indicating seriousness by wearing ritually prescribed clothing is timeless, but the cut of the clothes is constantly shifting, constantly modernizing. In ten years the requirement for the tie may be old-fashioned, but men will still be wearing long pants in Congress.

On Automation

Barclays has released , where the investment bank jumps into the debate about the impact of AI-driven automation on work. The report’s authors, Ajay Rajadhyaksha and Aroop Chatterjee, work in Barclay’s Macro Research group, and come down squarely on the side of Anotherism, as in AI is ‘just another labor-saving technology’. They employ many of the common arguments — ATMs did not end bank teller jobs, ‘40% of the population used to work on farms and now only 2% do but they are employed’, and they even have a section entitled ‘This time is no different’ — but have fairly chilling data when they zoom down to specific sectors or classes of work.

Consider this example:

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And their commentary:

So, autonomous vehicles will have an enormous impact on a long list of industries, decreasing the hours of work by people dedicated to driving. Barclay’s concedes that for many drivers, automation is likely to increase unemployment levels. And Barclay’s is making the argument in the other cases that the increased productivity coming from other classes of workers who will need to spend less time driving won’t be immediately translated into working fewers hours allocated to those workers. What is stopping their employers from simply pocketing the savings, however?

Still, the raw data is worth looking at, even if the conclusions could be reversed if an Otherist had been writing the prose.

US Policy Direction and The Future of Work

A much more helpful report, , has been released by a Council on Foreign Relations’ Independent Task Force, headed by Penny Prizker and John Engler, and written by Edward Alden and Laura Taylor-Kale.

I will share the findings and recommendations from the report’s executive summary, here:

Hear, hear!

I hope to have a more in detail analysis soon. [Subscribers reviewing the online version of the report will be able to see my commentary via Highly in the Work Futures Slack community’s #research channel].

Written by

Founder, Work Futures. Editor, GigaOm. My obsession is the ecology of work, and the anthropology of the future.

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