Four Visions of the Future of Work

New America and Bloomberg have come together to convene Shift: The Commission on Work, Workers, and Technology, with the goal of analyzing theories of the future of work. In a new report drawn from discussions with leaders in technology, business, policy, and culture as well as those whose livelihoods are already being affected by automation, the commission outlines four possible future economies: some with more work and some with less, some focused on task-based work and some oriented around traditional jobs.

None of the scenarios are inherently bad, but all present significant challenges that will be made worse if no action is taken. To get the conversation started, the report shares some “must-do actions”—such as focusing on older workers, reexamining the central role of employers in society, and exploring alternative alliances that go beyond traditional political coalitions and span all areas of society—that will ensure a stronger economy, regardless of what that future holds. “For many workers, the future is already here, for better or worse. So we should stop obsessing over predictions and start working to improve our society now.”

The four visions are:

Four Visions of the Future of Work

  • Rock-Paper-Scissors Economy. A community-based, local, and sustainable economy that prioritizes work in personto-person interactions.
  • King of the Castle Economy. A corporate-centered economy in which economic life is organized around large, profitable companies and those they employ.
  • Jump Rope Economy. A portfolio approach to work in which people build reputational rankings with each task they complete, combining multiple income streams to allow for a career that’s self-driven, entrepreneurial, and constantly changing.
  • Go Economy. A technology-driven economy in which people embrace connectivity in every area of their lives and look for ways that machines can extend their capabilities through data-platforms, electronic devices, and virtual reality.

My Take

I believe the Future of Work looks like a combination of these; not a single one. But if I had to choose my preferred one it would be the “Jump Rope” for a few reasons:

  1. The so called sharing economy, dominated by companies like Uber and Airbnb, brought us a world where the work finds you; one where reputation is currency.
  2. What we do know is that technology will change the nature of how we get work done, so people will have to create and define their own jobs and careers. This means a passion for life-long learning, where people develop and create new skills thus being prepared for any scenario.
  3. What is and will be different is how the leaders of the future look like: a learning animal, worldly, collaborative, entrepreneurial, innovative and driven to make a difference in society.

With that said, I encourage you to read through the report. Let me know what you think the future of work looks like, do you agree with the four scenarios?