A provocative new CNN Opinion piece by Douglas Rushkoff, Are Jobs Obsolete?, was just published and is worth a look. With unemployment levels elevated in much of the developed world and little relief in sight, Rushkoff raises important questions about how work is changing in our time. He proposes that many of the jobs we now hold and most of the ways we earn a living are rapidly and permanently vanishing, thanks to our ever-advancing technology and global industrialization. Rushkoff suggests we all need to consider the prospect that fewer people may be needed to work in the future – at least as work is now understood and in the areas where it is today mostly focused – and that almost all of us will soon begin to work either far less or in radically different ways. If his ideas seem unrealistic, consider that farming accounted for more 90 percent of work about 150 years ago in the West. Today, the figure is closer to one percent and still declining, even as we produce more food than ever before.
Will industrial jobs, producing the goods and services that have become familiar in the West, go the same way? Very likely, as globalization continues and as automation takes over production in areas ranging from retail sales to durable goods production to medical and legal services. What will take the place of the work we now do or seek? As with the decline of traditional work in farming, likely an entirely new economy focused on higher forms of value creation, if after a painful period of transition and dislocation for many of us. In this probable future, people will work either much less and/or increasingly as experts and artisans providing valuable insights and experiences. Curious? Learn more about the changing “techonomy” around us, and consider how ready you are to navigate and even thrive in new ways amid this change, via Mark Lundegren’s newest article for HumanaNatura, The Real New Economy.