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.
The endless debate over whether the future of work will actually include humans.
A slew of pieces over the past few days only add to the debate over the future of work. First, let’s tackle the WeWork news above. I’ll believe this when I see it actually happen, but WeWork promises it will roll out a coding curriculum across its entire base of hundreds of locations worldwide. I’m skeptical because I’m not convinced the world needs millions of vocationally trained coders — I’m more convinced the world needs all of us to be minimally literate in how digital computing works, and the jobs of the future will more likely require us to understand how to work with computers, rather than how to code them. It’s a bit like writing a century or so ago — we should all learn how to read and write, but only a small fraction of us became professional writers of one kind or another. The rest of us got very good at reading the code of writing — the output.
That’s why I’m a fan of requiring coding and basic computer literacy in all elementary through high schools, just like we do with reading and writing. Those who want to go deeper from there can then decide if they want to go to a WeWork vocational school, or dig deeper in the world of university level CS, which, let’s be honest, is quite removed from the coding academies popping up all over the place. Money Quote: “At a time many experts and politicians are questioning the assumption that college is for everyone, the deal bets on a fashionable form of vocational education — coding — as a route to well-paying software jobs. The plans are to expand Flatiron from its single location in New York’s financial district into most of WeWork’s approximately 170 offices, which would further test the growing idea of bypassing college, at least in the U.S. tech world.”
In late post-revolutionary France one man was tasked to map out the country. Gaspard de Prony, a mathematician and engineer, decided to approach the task by creating logarithmic and trigonometric tables. These tables, which would come to be known as Tables of de Prony, were destined to speed up the trigonometric calculations needed to complete these cartographic task.
A conversation with workers on the front lines of the on demand economy
What happens when millions of jobs are automated? This question was a major theme of the NewCo Shift Forum earlier this year, and to insure we heard from all sides, we gathered three representatives from the on demand workforce to hear about their experiences first hand. Read on to hear their insights into the future of work.
John Battelle: Concern about the future of jobs, and the impact of automation and AI is a major theme of this event. As we were putting together the program, it struck me that we can sit here and talk about all this and wave our hands. But shouldn’t we have the people whose jobs are actually being impacted be on the stage to talk about it?
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.
A couple of weeks ago we announced the start of the ironWeekend Initiative. Starting in June, ironSource employees will get a few, fully-paid, long weekends where we’ll shut the Tel Aviv offices entirely, so that they have extra time to go to the bank or the beach, spend time with their families, or just relax.
We’ve implemented this change because employee welfare for us goes beyond offering the perks that every tech company today offers. It’s about having a philosophy of work, and sticking to it.
Below is an excerpt of a letter I sent to our employees about this initiative, explaining my reasoning behind the new change and what I hope to see it accomplish. (A note for global readers — we’re closing the office on Sundays because in Israel we work Sunday-Thursday instead of Monday-Friday)
The firm of the future may be ten million people working together for ten minutes
Corporations are the dominant mechanism by which economic activity is organized. Whether there are opportunities for social innovation in the corporate world is hence a key question for the prosperity and well being in the emerging post-industrial society.
Over the past years, intelligent technologies, peer-to-peer cryptocurrencies and the Internet have laid the foundation for a very small size and a very low-cost enterprise with the potential for managing very large numbers of business relationships. The impact of these new actors is still hard to grasp because we are used to thinking about work from a different perspective.