Instead of being “that one person who made it out,” Stockton Mayor Michael Tubbs went back to his hometown to see if he could be the change he wanted to see.
Upon taking office in January 2017, Michael Tubbs became both Stockton’s youngest mayor and the city’s first African-American mayor. He’s also the youngest mayor in the history of the country who represents a city with a population of over 100,000 residents. The changes he is trying to effect are bold, inspiring, and made for a riveting presentation at NewCo Shift Forum earlier this year. Below is his talk and a transcript edited for clarity.
John Battelle: When I heard about our next speaker, I reached out through formal channels, but he called me on his cell phone, which was really cool. “Hey, it’s Michael. What’s up?” I ask, “Mr. Mayor, would you please come and speak at this conference?”
A spirited conversation on the future of work debates the best policies for a world in significant transition.
There are many “future of work” panels, but none that have featured wealthy capitalist turned activist Nick Hanauer, author, entrepreneur and tech leader Tim O’Reilly, and policy expert and economics professor Laura Tyson. Moderated by Alexandra Suich Bass, U.S. technology editor, The Economist, this panel debates everything from universal basic income to the role of unions in modern corporations. Not to be missed. Full video and edited transcript below.
Alexandra Suich Bass: I would like to start our panel on the Future of Work in an unconventional place. Talking about the future of work can sometimes feel like watching the most depressing movie imaginable in slow motion. I’d like to ask you guys to give me some positive news. What’s something that we can be excited about as it relates to work in the future? Nick, I’ll start with you.
Apple is sitting on an unimaginably huge pile of spare cash —roughly $250 billion. This corporate wealth reserve will only grow if and when the Trump administration makes good on its desire to help tech giants repatriate profits that they have stashed overseas to evade U.S. taxes.
What should Apple do with all that money? There are only so many perfect doorknobs a company can buy, after all. In Quartz, David Mattin proposes a suitably grand goal for the company: Fund a giant pilot-test of a universal basic income scheme.
The Shift Ignite series, curated by Brady Forrest at the NewCo Shift Forum, featured five minute talks from a diverse set of leaders, including Rose Broome, CEO of HandUp. In this talk (transcript and video below), Broome makes the case for a basic income in the United States.
Rose Broome: Hi everyone. By now, most of you have probably heard about Universal Basic Income. It’s a social safety net that gives everyone a payment that covers their basic cost of living. The basic income has had support on the left and the right. Martin Luther King believed that it would help end poverty.
What do a hundred American leaders find when they compare different possibilities for the effect of technology on work’s future?
The future of work is already here in the present.
After a year of imagining the future of work 10–20 years from now, led by (national think tank) New America and (technology company) Bloomberg, and powered by discussions with more than 100 leaders across all walks of American life, a survey of American workers, conversations about automated trucks with truckers, discussions with people who provide eldercare to their families, and lots of background research… we are honored to present our findings.
We took (a different take) on this issue than many others: The future is impossible to predict, so we compared four scenarios along two dimensions — with more work and less, more “taskification” of jobs and less — and we believe these are four possible futures of work in America.
Geography is destiny, when it comes to both employment and longevity. New studies show how the inequality that dug its heels into the U.S. economy in recent decades varies by location, not only in differentials of wealth but also of life expectancy — and in the likelihood that a robot or algorithm will take your job.
First, the lifespan data. While overall life expectancy in the U.S. continues to increase, when you look county by county, there are areas where it is in actual decline, according to a new report in JAMA Internal Medicine (The Washington Post). The disparity between the longest-lived zones — like the mountains of central Colorado, with their gilded ski resorts — and the cruelest ones has grown steadily; it’s now a full 20-year gap. The study didn’t look at causes. But since longer life correlates with wealth, exercise, and access to health care, the rich-poor gap that has resorted the U.S. population looks to be a likely culprit.
As I was planning the overall narrative arc of last month’s Shift Forum, it became quite clear we needed to address the question of how our society manages its workforce — in particular, the role technology, AI, and automation plays, as well as the massive role of government policy. I’m not a huge fan of panels, per se, but small ones run by nimble moderators can really bring a topic to life. As I was pondering the best way to do just that, I spoke to Fred Wilson, co-founder of Union Square Ventures. Turns out Fred was deeply interested in the topic, and volunteered to moderate the discussion. I’m certainly glad he did — his panel featured Maya Rockeymoore, Ph.D. Founder, President & CEO, Center for Global Policy Solutions, and Stephen DeWitt CEO, Work Market. Rockeymoore is an expert in labor policy, and DeWitt has pioneered a new approach to labor through his company’s Work Market platform. Below is the conversation in both video and as a text transcript, edited for clarity.
Fred Wilson (FW): We’ve been dancing around this issue all morning long — We get to actually have the headline. We’re going to talk about the future of work. Everyone else was talking about it too, but we got that headline.
Toward the end of my Newco Shift Forum panel on the future of work in February, a woman from France rose and implored me to reconsider advocating for the idea of a basic income. “Do you really want increased dependency on public programs like we have in my country?” she asked.
The moderator called time before I had a chance to address that aspect of her multi-pronged question but as we walked offstage, he asked me how I would have responded. I replied, “We have large and growing indigent and homeless populations in the U.S., just imagine what it will be like if automation causes large numbers of people to lose their jobs.”
“I believe that this instinct to perpetuate useless work is, at bottom, simply fear of the mob. The mob (the thought runs) are such low animals that they would be dangerous if they had leisure; it is safer to keep them too busy to think.” George Orwell, Down and Out in Paris and London, p. 119
In the extraordinary memoir Down and Out in Paris and London, George Orwell masterly describes what it is like to be poor. He tells us how he came to be in a situation of extreme poverty; he is living in Paris teaching English and is suddenly left without students. By a series of steps, he describes how he gradually becomes penniless and hungry, and the different feelings experienced through this new reality that takes over all aspects of his life.
NewCo’s Shift Forum raised some loud alarms about what could happen at the crossroads where business and society stand today. But as it proceeded, the event, which we just wrapped up, began to build some roll-up-your-sleeves momentum, too. Speakers — more than 75, all on one track — gave attendees a generous helping of creative, risky, sometimes improbable ideas for breaking our economic, political, and social logjams.
Here’s a whirlwind tour of some of these we heard at the Forum heard—prototypes and proposals for institutional, personal, or collective adaptation to our disrupted times.