The NewCo Daily: Today’s Top Stories
The term “emotional labor” was invented by sociologist Arlie Hochschild to describe the ways workers, particularly women, are expected to put on a happy face in the workplace and for customers. In the future, though, expect to see the phrase “emotional labor” repurposed to describe all the socially skilled, interpersonally intensive jobs that will thrive in an AI-driven world, where anything that can be automated will be (Livia Gershon in Aeon).
Today’s job market is already seeing “growing real-world demand for workers with empathy and a talent for making other people feel at ease.” Salaries haven’t caught up yet — we still underpay people whose jobs involve caring for others — but they will. Meanwhile, we need to rethink how we measure productivity, because right now it fails to account for any kind of “emotional labor.”
As this change rolls through the global economy, expect to see companies large and small adjust their self-images and purposes to account for it. That’s already beginning to happen: This week, Mark Zuckerberg announced that Facebook was rewriting its mission statement, from “make the world more open and connected” to “give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together.” Connection is what happens in a circuit; closeness is what people, once they’re connected, actually feel.
As automation and AI become progressively more powerful, they could completely invert our ideas about which jobs should be “human-only.” Nicholas Carr suggests, only half-jokingly, that Uber might forget about filling Travis Kalanick’s shoes with a person and hire a robo-CEO. “Kalanick’s great failing was that he was not quite robotic enough,” Carr writes. “His flaws were not analytical but human.” Uber, Carr argues, is a “perfect testbed” for a self-driving startup because it is “a fundamentally numerical company, constituted mainly of software.”
We may want to trade in CEOs for algorithms but keep human beings on the front lines at supermarkets, post offices and hospitals, as Stacy Torres argues in a New York Times op-ed. For many people, especially the elderly, the disabled, and those coping with mental illness, the contact they get with service providers, fleeting though it is, provides precious support.
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