The 8 Macro-Drivers and Trends Transforming Work (Part 2)

Mary O'Hara-Devereaux | | Future of Work

Devereaux_The Bigger Picture

The Badlands has been the crucible for these early stages of the evolution of work. Last time we introduced the first four of these trends. These final four trends continue to tell the story of how the surges of innovation in technology continue to change not only work but our daily lives and the environment surrounding both.

    5. The rise of smart machines and systems

    It is clear that our future holds an increasing presence of computerization that will both: replace tasks at work and home, and services such as health care, but also augment our thinking. We are moving from using machines to do tasks to machines being our collaborators; they have become an extension of not just our bodies but our minds.

    The consequences of this are widespread, and can already be seen with the disappearance of middle-knowledge level jobs, such as the automation of manufacturing and accounting where significant pieces of that work have been readily replaced by computer systems. Think of the ability of the Rover Robot on Mars now able to think through how to get around rocks and other obstacles in its exploration of that planet?

    6. Big data and data modeling

    Brought on by increased technological capabilities, businesses of today have the capability of simulating almost anything and interacting with data in more sophisticated ways. Most decisions made today are based on complex sets of data, market research, and a general attempt to engage technology as much as possible to mitigate risk.

    We are living in a world where almost everything is programmable. Almost everything is data. The sheer amount of data available to tap into is growing exponentially. The human brain alone is not capable of managing the cognitive load it burdens us with.

    7. Rapid explosion of social media and digital infrastructure

    Buildings will not disappear but the rapid diffusion of digital infrastructure moves a lot of work from place to space. An increasing number of work tasks are moving into the Cloud, from storage of information to crowdsourcing for ideas and talent. As the device replaces the desktop work is truly on the move, and made even more sophisticated by social media tools.

    This has been accompanied by a shift from text to visual communication and presentations. It is not the end of text email yet but that is certainly on the horizon. Now communications are using more video, animation, and augmented reality – often with content created by the users. Millions of service users create the products they want instead of waiting for them to be developed. The adoption of social media shifting the nature of product and content creation, in turn changes how we interact within society.

    8. The quest for sustainability

    Although questions about the environment and sustainability have been questioned for many decades, there is a growing consensus that how we are using resources and interacting with the planet is causing lasting undesirable changes. What the implications of these are, how widespread they are, and how transformative they will be vary widely between scientists and people.

    The new technologies of this cycle of disruptive innovation, however, have given us the tools and knowledge to make specific measurements of change. A growing body of evidence of change and damage will drive action over the next 10 years. Given the widespread disagreements over resources, causes, effects, and actions going forward, it is unlikely that in the next 10 years there will be enough investment of the resources necessary to repair ongoing problems. That being said, we will probably slow it down and over the next 20 years move into repair and a concerted effort to stop much of it. It is an issue that many in both business and government are cognizant of and increasingly willing to take responsibility for.

Parting Thoughts:

Analysis and forecasts of macro-drivers and trends creates as many questions about the future of society and work as it answers:

  1. The rapid rise of machines that replace human work raises a significant question about what it is to be human, and how we maintain a comparative advantage to machines that are increasingly able to perform our daily tasks?
  2. Will ‘big data’ make us lose our capacity to act without data? Will we lose our capacity to use our intuition and other senses as we go forward? While this may mean more profitable and accurate decisions, it also creates other consequences.
  3. With the new visual tools and simulations we can make anything look real and each event comes with multiple interpretations. Will we become more critical, more skeptical about what is real, and more careful about what data we absorb and how we absorb it?
  4. There is a growing belief that taking care of the environment will lead to economic growth and business success if compatible. How quickly will this awareness turn to global action?

Through questions like these we begin to imagine what work that will be in the future. These 8 drivers and trends have created 8 transformative shifts that as they combine together form the launching pad for the future of work. Each of these disruptive shifts on work, such as the shift from employee to entrepreneur and permanent to velcro relationships have significant and interesting impacts. Read about the first four here.

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Mary O'Hara-Devereaux

Mary O'Hara-Devereaux

Mary O’Hara-Devereaux, Ph.D, Founder and CEO of Global Foresight, is one of the world’s leading futurists, business forecasters and long term strategy advisors. She has over 25 years of global experience providing Blue Chip clients, Fortune 500 executives, senior policy makers and not for profits with reliable customized forecasts that deliver targets no one else can see. Mary is a leading expert in future trends, global business, the future of work, and the future of China and emerging markets.
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