Section Four - A broader perspective
A story about UBI, the gig economy and a nuclear-powered vacuum cleaner (7 minutes)
”The goal of the future is full unemployment, so we can play” – Arthur C. Clarke
In section two, we listed a number of reasons why jobs are going to disappear. In section three, we did the opposite. In section five we will ask you to use storytelling to sketch a utopian and a dystopian scenario. If you look at the information from section two and three the result might be that in a utopian scenario everyone is happily producing and consuming, and in a dystopian scenario there are many unemployed people, chaos, uprisings and so on.
That is why it is important to broaden the question about the future of work and to ask ourselves: what does it mean when there is no more work or the work changes? We can talk about that for a very long time, but we only have an hour, so we'll limit ourselves to three examples in this section.
Universal Basic Income
When you ask a child of five years to solve a problem, you often get simple solutions.
What is the problem of the homeless?
That they don't have a home.
What is the solution?
Give them a home.
What is the problem of the poor?
That they have no money.
What is the solution?
Give them money.
These solutions seem very simple, so why don't we do it? Free money for everyone, for example, was once a mainstream idea. Watch this short video (2 minutes):
The idea of a universal basic income (UBI) has been around a long time and there has been a lot of discussion if it will work or not. We provided a lot of extra material on this topic in the section with the additional materials. The discussion about the UBI will become very relevant again when there are fewer jobs. But what exactly does it mean if people no longer have to work and still receive money? Will they be happier? Or not?
Is everyone going to paint? And then who would come to see those paintings? Does the rotten work that robots cannot do suddenly pay very well? Do people need to work, to produce, to live a meaningful live?
There are also a lot of people who think UBI stands for Universal Bad Idea. They have different reasons for this. Some believe jobs will never disappear, others think most people will not find a passion or think that you need work to improve. And others think that UBI is a scam from Big Tech. If we all get money for free we can spend it on Big Tech.
Whatever you think, when you think about the future of work, the concept of the UBI is an important element in your considerations.
In crash course seven we talked about stakeholders and platforms. We explored the concept of the gig economy. But maybe you forgot or maybe you didn't do crash course seven. That's why we are refreshing your memory with this one minute video:
The idea of the gig economy is that more and more people work flexibly. They download an app from a company and do chores and get paid for it. Think, for example, about Uber and Deliveroo. In the future, as we saw in crash course seven, it could well be that this concept will become more dominant and that companies will be replaced by software. The so-called decentralised autonomous organisations.
But what does this mean? Does that make people happier? Or not? And what if you combine it with the UBI? Will people want to belong to a company? Or will people enjoy the independence?
150 years old
In crash course two we talked about people who are getting older. Advances in medical science and the combination of biotechnology and information technology could make us all live to 150 years old.
But what do you have to do all this time? Work?
What does it mean for the advancement in the labour market? Do you change careers at the age of 80? Further training on your ninetieth? Will you be in school for 10 years? Are you going to be doing an internship for 2 years?
Predicting the future
The three examples above are just examples.
There are many more things that can affect the future of work. In addition, we already showed in crash course one how complicated it is to predict the future. Nevertheless, in the next section we are going to make an attempt using storytelling and sketching different scenarios.
For now, to make you feel good, we would like to show this one minute video with ten failed predictions. There is even a nuclear-powered vacuum cleaner in the video.
Take aways from section four:
- The future of jobs will be influenced by much more than the availability and type of work. In this section we gave three examples;
- The impact of free money for everyone (UBI);
- The impact of the gig economy;
- The impact of people living much longer;
- And, a nuclear-powered vacuum cleaner is not a good idea.