Sunday, October 13, 2013

What is the future for work and wealth in a digital society?

I've been following ideas on the future of working and learning in the digital age for some time, and the trends inescapably point to increasing automation.  Who are the drivers behind this, and how will it affect the future world of work?  How will society change as a result of this - for better or for worse?

Smart Planet has recently put out a number of articles that touch on the potential implications.  Many workers don't seem to be worried, apparently being more keen than their CEOs to push for the adoption, according to an article by Joe McKendrick.  They are keen to adopt for a competitive advantage, and resent managers who refuse to make time for adoption of digital tools.  However, the potential for automation to destroy jobs is not restricted to manufacturing it seems.  Charlie Osborne's article cites research from Gartner that suggests the appearance of self-learning systems that may replace human workers at a faster rate than the market can create new roles.  Will we resort to legislation banning the use of such tools?  Further changes to our standard workforce model may come in the shape of 'open source talent', with people offering their services in improving products for free.  Could this offset the loss of jobs, or is it just another tactic for employers to shed costs?

The trend for wealth inequality in developed countries is alarming.  Research in the UK (via GlobalNet21) and the US points to an ever-increasing gap between rich and poor.  Is automation helping to widen the gap, or can society adapt to bring the situation back into balance?