Working in Central-Africa and Greece, I cannot help but think that the strongest force shaping the future, is the past and that our current thinking about the world of work is hopelessly outdated. The gap in our global village of work has never been as wide, the exclusion of young professionals has never been as big.
In our post-industrial era, we have to revisit our way of thinking about work, its purpose and how it’s organized economically. The digital era over the next few decades will in the West marginalize many jobs to meaningless minimum wage roles or wipe them out altogether while the exodus from the poverty stricken regions on the planet will increasingly continue in force. More than two thirds of the population will not qualify for rewarding roles in the near future. Exclusion looms on all fronts.
You will argue there will be different and exciting roles, that many meaningless roles will be replaced by robots and that we’ll all live in a sort of Silicon Valley, going to work with our pet, dressed in our shorts and favorite T-shirt.
I fear this will be for a minor percentage of the population. Like for those who work at Uber, not drive around for Uber. Our digital economy seems to be a race to the bottom where the winner takes all and the losers are many.
We all appreciate the value of work differently. We all seek a different purpose in work too. One specific value of the many we extract out of work allows us to be part of a social and cultural setting: money. Excluded from the world of work means for many exclusions on other fronts, from the golf club to health care, from recognition to self-respect.
The powers that be are religiously holding on to the world of work as is, portraying their thinking as virtuous in defense of a culture and a set of values. Innovative thinking, anticipating the challenges of the new paradigm of work, is considered a mortal sin. They are hereby ruthlessly condemning future generations to exclusion. Lifelong learning with strong workmanship might cater for the happy few but excluding the majority of people from a purposeful working life is not a viable policy. I call on all concerned to rethink work in its broadest sense. Where a job rewarded is not based on fighting time. Where a job is rewarded on human value creation, not extraction.
In the picture above, sent to me by a dear friend, I see the dichotomy these guardians of culture face. Defending the virtues of the past against an unavoidable future, powered by algorithms and Wi-Fi. Physically recreating a space back in time is what a museum does. People however live in the real world. Nothing however is so difficult as not deceiving oneself (Wittgenstein).