There are varying opinions on the future of work. Some anticipate a future work environment where tech reigns, others posit otherwise. Let’s clear the air.
“The best way to predict the future is to create it”, said Abraham Lincoln, Peter Drucker, and Mark Zuckerberg. While each of these men are very different, each are considered leaders, visionaries and prominent figures around the world. Each have helped shape the future in unimaginable ways (at the time) and have inspired the world to do the impossible.
As tomorrow’s leaders it’s important to ask, what does the future mean to you? What do you think the future will resemble? Is it the future of your dreams or one that gives you nightmares? Or, perhaps you can’t even wrap your head around it but that’s OK, many people can’t either. The purpose of this post is to envision the future, provide a reorientation of the current state of technology, and perhaps, ignite a spark in you.
A Synergy of AI, Machines & Humans
The future of work environment will be one where there’s a productive fusion between humans and machines.
Peter Thiel, co-founder of PayPal and highly successful venture capitalist, wrote in his book, Zero to One, that the future of work will see humans and machines working hand-in-hand to tackle problems of note. As humans, we are fundamentally good at making decisions even when we are faced with complex problems. Machines, on the other hand, are adept at making sense of overwhelming data sets and identifying seemingly inconceivable patterns.
A perfect example of this fact is seen in Google’s computer-for-human substitution project. 2012 was a momentous year for Google as one of their machines successfully scanned 10 million YouTube videos and then learned to identify a cat with an astounding 75% accuracy. When a 4-year-old achieves the same feat with 100% accuracy, the kid gets no accolades. In fact, when a computer beats a chess whiz or performs complex computational problems, we humans take yet another blow.
Computers should be seen for what they truly are: tools, not competitors or rivals. The collaborative work effort of machines and humans is the answer to the age-long question of “Will AI replace humans?” This is not an attempt to escape reality or a ploy to boost your ego, it simply is what it is. Humans need advanced technology as much as these machines need humans.
The Future Requires that You Embrace Innovation
For you to remain relevant in the future of work environment, you must be ready for the paradigm shift.
If the previous paragraph made you think about how the internet caused newspapers to nearly go extinct, you’re not alone. Indeed, smartphones have become ubiquitous (who uses snail mail anymore?), and Uber has officially put good ‘ol taxi drivers out of business. However, the future is only unfriendly to people who espouse a rigid stance.
Yes, technology has evidently claimed several jobs. In fact, ‘several’ isn’t a sufficient adjective – technology has led to millions of people losing their jobs. But, truth be told, many of these jobs are quite arduous and computers are better at completing these tasks. So, these machines are not only improving efficiency and productivity, they are also cutting costs.
Take for instance, in 1947, after World War II, almost 1.4 million workers were employed in the railroad industry. In that year, about 655 billion ton-miles of cargo was transported. In 2014, the cargo increased to 1.85 trillion ton-miles while the workforce was reduced to less than 190,000 workers.
Also, if you break it down, you’ll find that the internet has created more jobs than it has taken. With internet-related consumption exceeding that of energy and agriculture, the internet alone has accounted for about 21% GDP growth in the last 5 years. Also, a survey including 4,800 small and medium businesses showed that the internet has created 3 extra jobs for every 2 jobs lost.
Are We Tending towards a Freelancing Economy?
Will we all be entrepreneurs? There are over 7 billion people in the world today. Imagine a scenario where we have over 7 billion registered companies offering various services. This picture is more utopian than realistic and frankly speaking, might not pan out.
However, try to adjust the lens of your camera a little and see these 7 billion people as independent workers, offering freelance services on various platforms. When you consider the fact that almost 50% of millennial workers are already working as full-time freelancers, the picture begins to take shape.
The “gig economy”, as it is fondly called, is rapidly becoming prevalent. The World Economic Forum reported that freelancers represent about 35% of the US workforce and 16% of the European Union. Perhaps, it is time to hone your skills, network with the right people, and enjoy the benefits of a freelance economy.
Virtual Jobs will become Pervasive
With the advent of technology, organizations can get things done faster, almost instantaneously. Meetings can be set up within minutes, ideas can be exchanged confidentially, and projects can even be executed on the cloud in due time. While the traditional method of sitting behind desks, sharing office spaces, etc. might seem too enticing to leave, change is inevitable.
A study carried out by researchers at Auckland University of Technology revealed that office spaces lead to reduced productivity, less cordial relationships, and distrust. It might also be beneficial to consider the cost implication. Transportation is becoming very expensive and the time spent on the road can be put to better use. The future of work environment will encompass virtual meetings, cloud projects, and reduced physical presence.
So what is the future of work?
It goes without saying that you need to equip yourself properly to be a part of the future of work. Be open to learning, be ready to leverage technological advancements, and don’t forget to hone your inherent skills. The future is not one to fear, it is yours to own!