The Future Of Work In A Digital World
How do we unlock our potential for a purposeful and meaningful life?
The relevant question is not simple what shall we do tomorrow, but rather what shall we do today in order to get ready for tomorrow?
- Peter Drucker
It used to be that the speed between a thought about new technology, the working prototype of that innovation, and then availability to (or acceptance by) the public would take multiple generations to accomplish. Over the past century we have eclipsed not just generations, but decades to where the average innovation is brought to market and deprecated within 10-15 years, if not sooner.
Today we are at the point where new technology introduction, as well as new social value systems around this new technology, are outpacing our culture's collective ability to keep up.
In general, while man has also sped up his ability to transform and adapt, culture as a whole takes longer to change. If technology is now moving from innovation to obsolete in under 10 years, and yet it takes human society roughly 20 years to adapt to something new, such as gay rights, social media or even robots, this means some technologies come and go, innovating and changing our world, before we have even figured out how to adapt. What happens to mankind in this scenario?
Friedman (2016) asserted that as a result of this rapid change, we will start to fragment at the seams, at many seams in fact, and “not just the typical class seams of race or religion, but in human seams in the way we aren’t even aware of.”
What is the future of work in a digital world?
Answering this question is harder than you may think. As Steven Kotler spoke to in his 2020 book The Future Is Faster Than You Think, when we put a person in a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scan, it would show that when we imagine ourselves into the future, something peculiar happens – our medial prefrontal cortex shuts down. This is a part of the brain that activates when we think about ourselves and deactivates when we think about other people. In other words, when we think about the person we are going to become, our brain treats that person as a stranger. And the farther you imagine into the future, the more of a stranger you become. The brain believes that the person who would benefit from future choices is different than the one making the choices.
Is this a problem? I think so. Why? Because in addition to the limitations already imposed upon our local and linear brains (even when not stressed), those built in features of our neurobiology to protect us make us blind to what is around the bend. This wasn’t so troubling when ‘the bend’ was generations away, but in a global and exponential world where ‘the bend’ is five years and we aren’t equipped to see let alone adapt to change that fast – dysfunctional behaviors will begin to set in as ineffective coping mechanisms.
Whatever your take on automation's impact on labor, we can all surely agree that future work will require, well, future skills. Because when robots take over manual tasks and AI can handle jobs that previously required a brain, what remains to be done by humans wills, naturally, be different from what is done today.
- University of Oxford
But what if we can’t image it, how can we prepare for it? How do we unlock our potential for a purposeful and meaningful life? Learn more about optimal wellbeing and performance.