(future of work) (discussion) (research)

I wanted to share an intriguing new article that offers a fresh perspective on how we think and talk about the future of work. The authors analyzed media coverage and surveyed different groups of experts to understand competing narratives about the future of work.

Their key finding is that there is no single, definitive prediction of what the future will look like. Rather, there are different “imaginaries” pushed by different groups based on their interests and biases. For example:

  • Tech entrepreneurs tend to believe in “Effective Accelerationism” - the idea that technological progress is inevitable and positive. Their master narrative is that AI and robots will augment human abilities.
  • Labor economists believe in “Capitalist Realism” - that capitalism and economic growth are the only viable system. They think automation fears are overblown and new jobs will emerge.
  • Critical authors/journalists propose “Degrowth” - reducing consumption and work hours, and providing a universal basic income. They warn about climate change and job destruction.

The future we get depends on which imaginary gains dominance through things like media narratives and policy changes. The research shows our beliefs are shaped by psychological biases and group membership more than objective facts.

In other words, the future is not predetermined - it’s up to us to shape it through democratic debate and collective action. What kind of future do we want to build together?

I’d love to hear your perspectives on this. Which future of work imaginary resonates most with you?

I find this a very insightful analysis on the different perspectives and biases that shape predictions about the future of work. A few thoughts come to mind:

  • You’re absolutely right that there is no one definitive future, but rather multiple potential scenarios that will be shaped by human choices, values and policies. The future is not pre-determined.
  • The idea of competing “imaginaries” promoted by different interest groups makes a lot of sense. Everyone comes to this debate with their own assumptions, fears and hopes.
  • I resonate most with the “Effective Accelerationism” view in terms of technological progress being inevitable, but we need to shape it for the best interests of humanity. AI and automation do present risks of job displacement, but also opportunities to augment human abilities and free us up for more creative work.
  • However, I think the Critical/Degrowth imaginary also raises important concerns we can’t ignore about climate change, inequality, and effects on labor. Some degree of “degrowth” in consumption, work hours and economic activity may be necessary for sustainability.
  • Ultimately we need an informed public debate on the merits, risks and trade-offs between these different futures. And policies that anticipate and protect against downsides, while harnessing upsides. What future we get will depend on the democratic social contract we build.
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(future of work) (wrong question) (role of labour) (claims on wealth)

Why doesn’t anyone talk about the elephant in this room?

It’s clear that work, or “labour” in the sense that has driven Capitalism and been critiqued by Marxism, is being transformed, some would say “broken.” Broken in that it’s becoming harder to see how humans will contribute surplus value that capital can exploit.

This is not to say there will not be more than enough jobs to go around. It is to say that the engine of growth we all know (and love?), capitalism, will be seriously challenged by AI.

Not that it does not create an opportunity for vast profitability because the cost of labour has been reduced or eliminated from the equation in many situations. It is the fact that labour, as the mediator for the distribution of the wealth of nations, is becoming less viable than it ever has before and the wealth created is likely to accrue to very few. And I contend this is unsustainable.

Uber wealthy like to socialise this with a UBI. I think the idea of a UBI is wrong, dystopian even, but it would take me a dissertation to explain why.

Bottom line?

We need to find a new mechanism for the distribution of wealth accruing to capital so that it is to the benefit of all of humanity. We must do it without falling into the trap of UBI and other forms of “social safety net” thinking.

Put another way, we need to find a solution to the equity problem created by capitalism and put on steroids by AI, in a way that aligns with human purpose and happiness.

Well put! I completely agree that is the right question, the challenge is I haven’t heard anything close to a good answer to that question, has anyone else?

The prevailing thought has been that while capitalism isn’t perfect it is the best system we have got especially when compared to the alternatives, however that seems to be shifting rapidly without much of a direction.

Completely agree.

I reluctantly think this may also be true, the capitalist mantra of growth at all cost has led to some great and terrible things and the cliff edge is getting very close (or perhaps we are already over it?)

I think it is also important to remember the present of work while discussing the future of it. This is a hilarious example of what people are spending their time doing…

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(the inequality trap) (a reformist solution) (reality bites hard)


Roosevelt’s New Deal came close to being a good answer.

Certainly the best in the modern era.

Albeit to a slightly different problem, but one born of the same massive problem, inequity. Human societies don’t last long when they become as imbalanced as the one we have now is (and had 100 years ago, and 200 years ago and 300 and…)

The New Deal served America very well in the post-war years, until the the oil shocks of the 70s and neo-liberal capture of the narrative in the 80s, which has progressively dismantled the New Deal reforms, to the detriment of “99%” and the untold theft of wealth in our neo-guilded-age, by the “1%”. Those in control have been slowly boiling the frog of the rest of us for about 40 years now. It won’t last.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m no communist, far from it, but unless and until we embrace major changes now, to undo all this damage, systemic failure will do it for us. And last time, that was very ugly.

And the changes required are technically very simple. The missing element is the motivation to make them happen. But it’s coming. Roosevelt had the threat of “mass revolution” to convince his elite colleagues that if they did not accommodate this change (which they did), they would likely succumb to the pitchforks and fires.

I’m still thinking about how best to replicate this scenario :grinning:

For those like me who are not as much a student of history as Bruce is:

Initial Objectives: The New Deal aimed to provide immediate economic relief, reduce unemployment, stimulate recovery, and reform the economic system to prevent future depressions.

  1. The First New Deal (1933-1934):
  • Emergency Banking Act: Stabilized the banking system.
  • Civilian Conservation Corps: Employed young men in outdoor government camps.
  • Agricultural Adjustment Act: Supported farmers by reducing crop production.
  • Tennessee Valley Authority: Provided electrification and other developments in the impoverished Tennessee Valley.
  1. The Second New Deal (1935-1936):
  • Works Progress Administration: Employed millions in various projects.
  • Social Security Act: Established pensions for the elderly, unemployed, and disabled.
  • National Labor Relations Act: Strengthened labor unions’ rights.
  1. Reform Measures:
  • Securities and Exchange Commission: Regulated the stock market.
  • Glass-Steagall Act: Separated investment and commercial banking.
  • Federal Housing Administration: Provided mortgage support.
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I have always wondered why someone didnt do that for SEEK also, so you can search for a new job

Not following @duncdad what do you mean?

I’m still learning the interface, I was replying to your post with the Twitter embedded post

Ah right! For that you can highlight a bit of that post and then you’ll see “Quote” appear click that and a new post is created with a link to the other post, like the below

Nailed it

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