Tag Archives: Work

The Work Ahead

By Edward Alden and Laura Taylor-Kale – The world is in the midst of a profound transformation in the nature of work, as smart machines and other new technologies remake how people do their jobs and pursue their careers. The pace of change will almost certainly accelerate, and the disruptions will grow larger. In the United States, where work is the basis for most of the income and benefits that make a secure life possible for Americans and their families, the transformation has been especially wrenching.

The most important challenge facing the United States— given the seismic forces of innovation, automation, and globalization that are changing the nature of work—is to create better pathways for all Americans to adapt and thrive. The country’s future as a stable, strong nation willing and able to devote the necessary resources and attention to meeting international challenges depends on rebuilding the links among work, opportunity, and economic security.

Failure to do so will increase the pressures for retrenchment that are already causing the United States to back away from global leadership. A United States that cannot provide better job and career options and greater economic security for its citizens will be less competitive and less of an example to the world.

It will have fewer resources available for national security. Domestic struggles over the sharing of economic gains will further distract and divide the country, and make it less willing and less able to act effectively in the world.

As technology disrupts industry after industry, the United States needs better ways to help Americans access the many new opportunities technology is also creating, in particular by strengthening the link between education and employment prospects. The country needs stronger support for job creation, especially for better-paying jobs.

It needs to make the skill demands of jobs much more transparent, so job seekers know the credentials required to move ahead on their own career paths. It needs to ensure that all Americans can gain the skills and knowledge that they—and the economy—depend on for success. And the United States needs to improve the benefits and returns from work for all Americans. more (pdf)>

If work dominated your every moment would life be worth living?

BOOK REVIEW

The Good Life and Sustaining Life, Author: Andrew Taggart.
Leisure: The Basis of Culture, Author: Josef Pieper.

By Andrew Taggart – ‘Total work’ is the process by which human beings are transformed into workers and nothing else.

By this means, work will ultimately become total, I argue, when it is the center around which all of human life turns; when everything else is put in its service; when leisure, festivity and play come to resemble and then become work; when there remains no further dimension to life beyond work; when humans fully believe that we were born only to work; and when other ways of life, existing before total work won out, disappear completely from cultural memory.

We are on the verge of total work’s realization.

What is so disturbing about total work is not just that it causes needless human suffering but also that it eradicates the forms of playful contemplation concerned with our asking, pondering and answering the most basic questions of existence. more>

Economists Are Obsessed with “Job Creation.” How About Less Work?

By Peter Gray – We have an ever-growing number of jobs that seem completely useless or even harmful.

As examples, we have administrators and assistant administrators in ever larger numbers shuffling papers that don’t need to be shuffled, corporate lawyers and their staffs helping big companies pay less than their fair share of taxes, countless people in the financial industries doing who knows what mischief, lobbyists using every means possible to further corrupt our politicians, and advertising executives and sales personnel pushing stuff that nobody needs or really wants.

The real problem, of course, is an economic one. We’ve figured out how to reduce the amount of work required to produce everything we need and realistically want, but we haven’t figured out how to distribute those resources except through wages earned from the 40-hour (or more) workweek.

In fact, technology has had the effect of concentrating more and more of the wealth in the hands of an ever-smaller percentage of the population, which compounds the distribution problem.

Moreover, as a legacy of the industrial revolution, we have a cultural ethos that says people must work for what they get, and so we shun any serious plans for sharing wealth through means other than exchanges for work.

So, I say, down with the work ethic, up with the play ethic!

We are designed to play, not to work. We are at our shining best when playing. Let’s get our economists thinking about how to create a world that maximizes play and minimizes work. more>

How to Prepare for an Automated Future

By Claire Cain Miller – How do we educate people for an automated world?

People still need to learn skills, the respondents said, but they will do that continuously over their careers. In school, the most important thing they can learn is how to learn.

Schools will also need to teach traits that machines can’t yet easily replicate, like creativity, critical thinking, emotional intelligence, adaptability and collaboration. The problem, many respondents said, is that these are not necessarily easy to teach.

Employers will also place more value on on-the-job learning, many respondents said, such as apprenticeships or on-demand trainings at workplaces. Portfolios of work are becoming more important than résumés.

Consider it part of your job description to keep learning, many respondents said — learn new skills on the job, take classes, teach yourself new things.

The problem is that not everyone is cut out for independent learning, which takes a lot of drive and discipline. People who are suited for it tend to come from privileged backgrounds, with a good education and supportive parents, said Beth Corzo-Duchardt, a media historian at Muhlenberg College. “The fact that a high degree of self-direction may be required in the new work force means that existing structures of inequality will be replicated in the future,” she said.

“The ‘jobs of the future’ are likely to be performed by robots,” said Nathaniel Borenstein, chief scientist at Mimecast, an email company. “The question isn’t how to train people for nonexistent jobs. It’s how to share the wealth in a world where we don’t need most people to work.” more> https://goo.gl/LVkagm

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The Future of Work — 3 Mega-Trends

By Graham Brown-Martin – Technology is just part of a broader spectrum of human activity and social change is driven by society rather than machines, that is, we have agency to act independently and make free choices.

The path of innovation and its social consequences are almost entirely shaped by society as a result of numerous social factors such as culture, politics, regulatory mechanisms and economic arrangements. The latter one is particularly apposite given the post-WWII obsession with neoclassical economics, as taught in most universities.

Political decisions supported by economic frameworks have excluded citizens from the discourse and, as a result, are now unraveling across the western world. It turns out that the things we value most are the things that are difficult or impossible to measure.

This obsession for economics and measuring what could be measured and ignoring what it couldn’t gave us global agencies such as the World Bank, IMF and OECD.

But these organizations have been unable to apply their frameworks, wedded as they are to a single metric of GDP, to the worlds most pressing challenges such as climate change, increasing population or growing inequalities, rather they have exacerbated them. more> https://goo.gl/DywzVb

Earn It at Home, Spend It From Home

By Justin Fox – This evidence of a shift toward working and consuming at home probably does not surprise you. It was widely predicted back in the 1990s that something like this would happen as the internet made it easier to connect to the world remotely.

In fact, it was probably overpredicted (remember “cocooning“?).

People apparently still do feel the need to physically interact with others in-person, at work and in other endeavors. Many employers have encouraged telecommuting, but from time to time some have dramatically backtracked. And far from withering away as the “death of distance” made location less relevant, big cities have actually become bigger and more economically important.

It could be that this is yet another example of novelist William Gibson’s famous saying that “the future is already here — it’s just not evenly distributed.” more> http://goo.gl/DF9o9x

Tennis with Plato

BOOK REVIEW

Running with the Pack, Author: Mark Rowlands.

By Mark Rowlands – Today’s world is a deeply utilitarian one, where everything must have a use or be ‘good for something.’

Our lives are dominated by work and, unless we have been extraordinarily lucky, we work not because we particularly enjoy it but to get paid — payment that keeps us and our loved ones alive for a while and, if there is anything left over, allows us to do something more interesting than the work. Our lives are spent, largely, doing one thing for the sake of something else, which is in turn done for something else.

This is a kind of instrumental thinking. Something has instrumental value if its worth lies not in itself but in something else that it can get you. Money or medicine are good examples.

We work because we want to be paid or rewarded with status.

Running keeps you healthy, happy, or even alive. Tennis ditto — and don’t forget the numerous social opportunities both afford.

Aristotle first identified the problem. Suppose your life is made up of things you do for the sake of something else — you do A in order to get B, and you do B only to get C, and so on. Therefore A has no value in itself; its value lies in the B. But B has no value in itself: that value lies in the C. Perhaps we eventually encounter something — call it Z — that’s valuable for what it is in itself, and not for anything else.

The grim alternative is that we encounter no such thing and satisfaction is always deferred, always just around the corner (indeed many would argue that this is the treadmill of consumerism).

If our lives are to mean anything, there must be something that’s valuable for what it is in itself and not for anything else it might get you. This, in the parlance of philosophers, is called intrinsic value. more> https://goo.gl/IIKfn3

How Technology Has Changed Workplace Communication

BOOK REVIEW

Never Eat Alone, Who’s Got Your Back, Author: Keith Ferrazzi.

By Natalie Burg – “Collaboration technology sprang up 20 years ago, but we kept acting, behaviorally, like we did when we were meeting face to face,” said Keith Ferrazzi.

Collaboration used to happen in board rooms with whiteboards and bagels. Today, it’s on documents being edited by multiple people all over the world at the same time. It’s sharing screen data and chatting over video. more> http://tinyurl.com/l66tb74

Say Goodbye to the 9-to-5 Work Day

By Paul Shread – According to new research from Mozy, EMC‘s online data protection unit, employees are checking email from home both before and after work. The average employee has put in 46 minutes of work before they’ve even arrived at the office, and by the time they’re done checking email for the day, 12 hours has passed.

In exchange, employees might come into work a little later, but 80% of them also think it’s acceptable to call them at home at night. more> http://tinyurl.com/73wqbhy

In Praise Of Stretch Goals

BOOK REVIEW

Betterness: Economics for Humans (Kindle Single), Author: Umair Haque.

By Steve Denning – In an article  entitled The Folly of Stretch Goals, Daniel Markovitz writes, “Let’s dispense, once and for all, with the managerial absurdity known as ‘stretch goals.'”

Well, no! Instead, let’s celebrate stretch goals.

Markovitz’s article shies away from stretch goals for several reasons:

  • “Stretch goals can be terribly demotivating, overwhelming and unattainable”
  • “Stretch goals foster unethical behavior”
  • “Stretch goals can also — tragically — lead to excessive risk taking.”

Stretch goals need to be about human excellence, not about financial targets. Financial goals bring out the selfish gene that lurks in all of us. Instead, stretch goals need to appeal to what is best in us. more> http://is.gd/lMczMu