A conversation on the 'future of work' is alarmingly imperative even more so with the coronavirus outbreak.
In his bestseller, ‘The Third Industrial Revolution’, professor of economics, Jeremy Rifkin, the principal architect of the Third Industrial Revolution in China and Germany, suggested that the respective countries would be running on 100% renewable energy by the year 2040. Not just that, the fixed costs associated with the renewable energy infrastructure are going to be as low as telephones. This is not only intriguing but also leaves us with a lot to ponder over.
Here's an incredible short film by Superflux that will provoke you into recognising the importance of co-creating the future:
It is significantly evident that the world today is going through massive changes that are bound to have disruptive implications in the future, especially in the world of work. The future of work has never been so exciting and uncertain at the same time. A study by the World Economic Forum concluded that, in India, the trend towards contractualization of labour is likely to rise with technological adoption. It was reported that 59% of the Indian youth is interested in the gig economy as a main source of income. While the gig economy is one such expected trend, there are several other that would in many ways, influence the future of work.
Studies show, in the future, AI would diagnose the stage of a tumour by assessing CT scans,
MRIs etc. Does this mean doctors would have to work with machines? Is their job security threatened due to automation?
The success of Uber, Airbnb, Zoom Cars etc. have paved the way to a new economy called the Sharing Economy. Is our workforce ready to accommodate such a source of income or to thrive in such a setting? It is also reported that 80% of the vehicles on the road will be eliminated. What happens to the workforce driving these cars at the moment?
It is expected that a large part of the level 1 jobs in the IT sector are already being outsourced. Will this trend rise to all types of jobs and in all sectors?
With increasing pressure from governments and environmentalists, automobile companies are increasingly switching to electric cars. What would happen to our workforce that is predominantly embedded in an infrastructure that thrives on fossil fuels?
While these are several trends noticed about the future of work, one must understand that it would be defined by the steps we take together as a society, today. Thus, it becomes, imperative that we make conscious efforts in co-creating the future of work. A centre for the future of work in government bodies, enterprises, development organisations or universities is essential and would be monumental in achieving the following:
The centre would be a unique platform to identify, understand and respond to challenges posed by the future of work and act as a collaborative space for students of different disciplines to engage in pressing problems to develop practical solutions for the future.
It would create a platform for organizations to engage with students and work together to solve some of the most prevalent problems faced in the industry.
The centre would enable discussions, workshops, talks, podcasts and events that would pioneer discussions relevant to the future of work and connect people with different perspectives.
The platform could enable rapid learning and exchange of knowledge.
Lets consciously replace the phrase 'work from home to 'remote work'. Yes, it makes a lot of difference!
‘Remote work’ was one of the major megatrends (I still have the sticky note up at my workspace at home — see picture) that emerged from my research on the ‘future of work’ last year. Not only does my speculation stand firm, but as a result of the current black swan that we all are going through, organisations have realized the value of remote work — a new way of working where the interests of employees and employers are aligned.
However, while this watershed event is accelerating the trends of ‘future of work’, our current order does not have the necessary infrastructure and services especially in the field of learning and education to navigate the same. It is imperative that designers, psychologists, innovators, engineers, policymakers and educationists come together to navigate and build sustainable solutions that would empower and enable us to thrive in this new system. Hollistic co-creation is the first step towards a more equitable future.
.speculative design & future trends
Speculative Design is a design practice aiming at exploring and criticising possible futures by creating speculative, and often provocative, scenarios narrated through designed artifacts.
I have used speculative design in my work in order to challenge the exiting paradigms of the future of work that have been set by various bodies around the world. The idea here is not to predict what the future would be like but stretch the possibilities to extreme ends in order to develop vast variety of scenarios that would provoke the audience into starting debates and questioning paradigms, which in turn pushes the law makers, economists and politicians into making appropriate decisions for the future of our society. The more the speculation happens, the chances of addressing concerns is higher. In order to provoke the audience, the design has to evoke emotion among the audience, radical thought alone is not enough. Several mediums could be used for such provocations – film, product, installations among the many.
Another interesting angle was of the use of Dark Design, which is, the positive use of the negative. With the rapid technological advancement and the abundance of AI, it is easier to drift into a dystopic society. It has become imperative now more than ever that a technology has a design intervention in order to bring in human centric solutions.
'Stark Choices' by Superflux is a perfect example of speculative design.
Trend mapping also plays an incredible role in co-creationg. For 'Vedica' I referred to some interesting work in the related field that provoked me into thinking radically. Note the illustration by Imperial College of London, below.
The future of work is learning!
The earlier structure of life involved stages dedicated to learning or exploring followed by streamlining your interest in order to capitalize on the very interest in the future. In most cases the interest didn’t change over a lifetime. However, with technology, and the accelerated change and rate of change that it has brought along with it, our paradigms need to change. In the IT industry, computer languages become obsolete in a matter of years. This is only going to be more common and across all fields. The new reality demands that we continue to explore, execute, expand and learn pro-actively.
Learning is the only attribute that stays constant to us human beings. And not just learning but applying the very same knowledge alongside our learning journey.
What are the future skills?
As we move from the information era to the augmented era, which is an area governed by technology, automation and Artificial Intelligence. Acquired knowledge will hold little importance as knowledge would be easily accessible to everyone. Even now, anybody with a smart phone and an internet connection can find information right from quantum physics to horse riding – this access is only going to increase as consumers continue to demand more content. Similarly, acquired knowledge that we use for repetitive tasks will be taken over my automation and in fact, machines would be able to do them better than humans. So, what does that mean for us?
We get to exercise those skills that make us uniquely human. Skills such as empathy, creativity, adaptability become extremely important. The ability of our minds to wander, make, dream, create and humanize are a blessing and in a world where machines exist, it is imperative these skills balance them out. An example would be the ‘Trolley Problem’ studied by philosophy graduates, which is know the most important guiding factor for decision making on the morality of driverless cars. Philosophy majors among other arts and humanities background are at peak importance.
Data + Human
"Let’s just stop thinking data is perfect. It’s not. Data is primarily human-made. “Data-driven” doesn’t mean “unmistakably true,” and it never did." - Giorgia Lupi
My mentor, Prof. Harshit Desai has stressed upon the fact that data is imperfect and humans can manipulate data sets to lobby their own version of truth. It is high time we viewed data through the lens of empathy. Award winning information designer Giorgia Lupi shows us how.