Future Friday: Are you a Techno-Optimist or a Techno-Pessimist?

by Michael Haberman on July 28, 2017 · 0 comments


Are you pessimistic or optimistic about the future of your work?

Are you fearful that your job will be taken over by technology and you will find yourself in the unemployment line for the rest of your life? Or are you confident that due to your skill sets and your personal adaptability you will be able to work along technology and be a productive member of the working society? If you are the former, you are what is known as a techno-pessimist, the latter is a techno-optimist. I got these terms from an article and video from the McKinsey Global Institute called The digital future of work: What will automation change? It is a 7 minute video with a panel of experts on the future of work discussing their points of view.

The article starts off by giving us definitions. “Some ‘techno-pessimists’ are concerned about the mass destruction of jobs, while ‘techno-optimists’ see considerable productivity gains for the economy that will in turn help create new work opportunities. Technology in the past has tended to create more jobs than it destroys, at least in the long run. Could this time be different?”

Non-employment work arrangements

An interesting point that a couple of the speakers mentioned was, what one of them called non-employment work arrangements. Arun Sundararajan, a professor at NYU, said technology is

 “… taking us from fulltime employment, which was the predominant way of earning a living in the 20th century, toward a wide variety of non-employment work arrangements. What’s exciting and scary at this point is the confluence of these two forces.

What he is talking about here is what the rest of us are calling the “gig” economy. Another speaker, Michael Chui, of the McKinsey Global Institute said “One thing that we should be worried about is whether we can adopt automation quickly enough. What we know is, because of demographics, because of aging, we simply don’t have enough workers, won’t have enough workers going forward, to have the type of economic growth that we want.”

One of the major issues I am most concerned about it is will our government bureaucracy be able to keep up and allow non-employment work to prosper. The FLSA is woefully behind the times and non-employment work arrangements are difficult to deal with and be compliant with regulations.

There are some interesting ideas in this video. Some of the speakers are more techno-optimistic than the others. Give it a brief watch and see what ideas it prompts for you.


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