The Future of Work

The Future Of Work is a fascinating article because it tries to look into the future and predict where the jobs might be. For example:So let's look at this -- is Mark Ryan's job secure? Certainly not. Here are four different ways to put Mark Ryan out of work:
  1. Fire Mark Ryan and let two of his former co-workers manage 150 people each. That process is very likely why Mark Ryan now manages 100.
  2. Replace Mark Ryan with a Manna system. Let a computer manage the people.
  3. Replace Mark Ryan with a manager in India who works for $6,000/year and manages everyone by telephone/email. It is likely that Mark Ryan already manages everyone by telephone/email, so what difference does it make if "Mark Ryan" is an Ameican or an Indian?
  4. Eliminate all of the people who Mark Ryan manages by automating them out of their jobs. Then Mark has no one to manage, so he is out of his job too.*
The phrase "no one will ever take Mark Ryan's job" is ridiculously optimistic.

Here is another quote from the article:When was the last time you talked to anyone face-to-face in a business setting? More and more people are now working from their homes and can go for weeks without ever talking to anyone face to face. Everything at work is handled via email or the phone. Then you go out and run some errands -- you talk to no one at the bank (ATMs), the gas station (credit card at the pump), the grocery store (self check out), the home improvement store (self check out), Wal-Mart (self check out), the book store (Web e-commerce), the dry cleaners (leave your clothes at your door, request pickup in a Web site). Even doctors are being automated -- this article from back in 2001 talks about it.

In short "The Future of Work" is that there will be less and less work left for people to do, and the pace of that transition is accelerating. That is why we should be thinking about how to redesign the economy, rather than praying that we can find some sort of job that will not evaporate in a couple of years.

[*Or Verizon can merge with another company. If Mark Ryan's department is redundant with a department in the merged company, Mark Ryan and all his employees are out on the street. A good example of this process can be seen in the recently-announced merger of Bank of America with Fleet. This article states: "FleetBoston Financial Corp. and Bank of America Corp. shareholders approved a $47 billion merger Wednesday that would create the nation's No. 3 bank and reportedly result in up to 13,000 job cuts." Mark Ryan could easily be one of the 13,000. Then what? The obvious answer is, "He can go find another job." But in today's job market, that could take between one and two years, and chances are that he will take a pay cut in the new job.]

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