Future of Work

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    Co-workers and makers: New public policies and corporate strategies for the city

Co-workers and makers: New public policies and corporate strategies for the city

Collaborative movements and communities—co-workers, makers, hackers, and fabbers— stir tremendous controversy because they expose all the paradoxes and contradictions of the ongoing transformations of work practices and capitalism. Work is being redefined by the growing number of entrepreneurs and freelancers while organisations are being transformed by a new work ethos. The ‘do-ocracy’ is establishing itself as the favoured organisational […]

Why robots aren’t the enemy

It is scary fun to think that the robot buddy who is making life a bit easier and products a bit cheaper will next week steal your job, that the bot that reads your laptop cookies will destroy your freedom of choice, or that super-intelligent algorithms mean that we will all end up working for machines. I propose, rather, […]

The coming jobs boom in the age of intelligent machines  

Central to the election of President Trump, the populist support of Brexit, and the distrust of so many institutions at the heart of the modern world, are concerns about the future of work; Who or what has taken my job? what are the jobs of the future? How do I – or my kids – get them? Where are […]

Future of work: making a living from cutting our own hair?

There is currently much debate on the future of paid employment in light of technological advancements within a range of areas, such as speech recognition, robotics, artificial intelligence, etc. Evocative imagery is presented ranging from a rather prosaic future of self-driving cars and lorries to the digital immortality of bodiless beings. I wish here to emphasise more immediate and […]

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    Future of Work: taking the blinkers off to see new possibilities

Future of Work: taking the blinkers off to see new possibilities

Anybody relying for their information on the current headlines would find it hard to make sense of what is happening in the labour market. On the one hand, the news media are awash with apocalyptic forecasts, often backed up by studies from reputable organisations such as the US National Bureau of Economic Research , the Oxford Martin School or […]

Work 4.0: How Germany is shaping the future of work

How to shape the future of work

In November 2016, the German Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, headed by social democrat Andrea Nahles, published the white paper “Work 4.0”. It’s the result of an 18-month dialogue process mapping out the challenges for the world of labour and injecting policy proposals in the political debate. The dialogue involved a wide […]

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    Employees v. entrepreneurs: Have the two categories become irrelevant?

Employees v. entrepreneurs: Have the two categories become irrelevant?

Most debates about work today focus on the joint evolution of entrepreneurs versus employees. Some academics believe we are moving towards an entrepreneurial society. Others focus on the increasing precariousness of work, but clearly qualify the thesis of a move towards an entrepreneurial society. In the context of this short reflexion, we simply want to question the categories themselves.

Entrepreneurs […]

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    Why there will never be a robot-entrepreneur and why it’s important

Why there will never be a robot-entrepreneur and why it’s important

Robot by geralt, Pixabay, under a CC0 licence
The debate is quite old. Machines, and then robots, have always brought fears and fantasies about unemployment and the brutal disappearance of skills and meaning.

With the rise of the so-called industry 4.0, fear is back. I believe that more than ever, it is a justified fear. Technology has never been more likely […]

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    New online live music agencies have oversized power over musicians

New online live music agencies have oversized power over musicians

North Charleston 4th of July Festival, by North Charleston, under a CC-BY-SA-2.0 licence
The impact of the internet on recorded music is well-known, as are its effects on elements of live music such as ticketing and broadcasting of performances. But here I will write about something that has been less well-documented: the way new web platforms affect the labour market for […]

The long read: What will we do in the post-work utopia?

The Refusal of Work: The Theory and Practice of Resistance to Work. David Frayne. Zed Books. 2015.

Inventing the Future: Postcapitalism and a World Without Work. Nick Srnicek and Alex Williams. Verso. 2015.

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There is today a preoccupation with the idea of ‘the end of work’: whether in chronicling the decline of permanent careers in the age […]

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    Online job auctions are more successful when bids are open for all to see

Online job auctions are more successful when bids are open for all to see

The “gig” economy is here. Companies like Freelancer.com and Upwork connect millions of freelancers with employers for on-demand work. According to a national survey conducted by research firm Edelman Berland in partnership with Upwork, 34 million people in the U.S. — approximately one in three workers — now work as freelancers. Those freelancers work as software developers, graphical designers, […]

Working in the cloud means working all the time

Technological advancements, such as Artificial Intelligence, Robotic Process Automation or Big Data are often considered major drivers for the future of work. Current debate on this topic mostly focuses on which tasks and jobs will be delegated to machines and how employees can deal with the uncertainty of career choice. In a recent report, the World Economic Forum provides […]

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    Service Automation: Robots and the Future of Work – Book Review

Service Automation: Robots and the Future of Work – Book Review

Service Automation: Robots and the Future of Work. Leslie P. Willcocks and Mary C. Lacity. Steve Brookes Publishing. 2016. 

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Booming headlines such as ‘Half of All British Jobs Could Be Replaced By Robots!’ and accompanying shelf-metres of popsci may be giving the particularly forward-looking a few sleepless nights. Yet these works rarely spur us to imagine the nitty-gritty […]

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    Automation should complement professional expertise, not replace it

Automation should complement professional expertise, not replace it

Will your next doctor be an app? A cost-cutting NHS wants more patients to act as “self-carers,” with some technologized assistance. A series of flowcharts and phone trees might tell parents whose children have chicken pox how best to care for them—no visits to surgeries required.  Or a mole-checking app might tell a worrywart when a given skin discoloration […]

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    The idea of robots as independent machines is science fiction

The idea of robots as independent machines is science fiction

Robots and intelligent systems have gained a significant amount of attention recently. Various authors and reports detail advances in robotics and artificial intelligence and speculate on the role of humans in the robotic future. In such commentaries, robots are often presented as independent and tireless machines that are rational and efficient; they are removed from their creators and contexts […]

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    Robots are a long way off replicating human will and imagination

Robots are a long way off replicating human will and imagination

Upon checking into the Henn-na Hotel near Nagasaki in Japan, guests are greeted by an impeccably dressed, well mannered, multilingual receptionist who recognises them on sight. She’s incredibly efficient at her job, she’s always on time and has no problem staying late without overtime pay. In fact, she never asks for any pay at all. Why? She’s a robot.

The […]

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    How workers interact with computers in an automated workspace

How workers interact with computers in an automated workspace

I hired into a “Big Box” warehouse in the summer of 2006. That is what megastores, usually shaped like square or rectangular boxes, are called. In March of 2016, I, along with my advisor published an ethnographic account of working there (Elliott and Long 2016). Each day of the four-year observation period, half a million cases moved through the facility, […]

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    The value of intermediaries in the global market for cloud workers

The value of intermediaries in the global market for cloud workers

A variety of online markets have developed in recent years to facilitate trade in labour services. Upwork – previously known as oDesk-eLance (oDesk was founded in 2005 and merged with eLance in 2014) – is the largest global online market for outsourced work, with revenues of around $1 billion a year, making it the ‘behemoth of the human cloud’ […]

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    The Future of the Professions: How Technology Will Transform the Work of Human Experts – Book Review

The Future of the Professions: How Technology Will Transform the Work of Human Experts – Book Review

The Future of the Professions: How Technology Will Transform the Work of Human Experts. Richard Susskind and Daniel Susskind. Oxford University Press. 2015.

We’ve grown accustomed to the decaying hulls of factories and abandoned shopping centres. We’ve begun to see the hollowing out of suburban office parks and we can even envision being transported by fleets of robot taxis. Yet […]

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    Historical predictions that technology would bring calamity have largely failed

Historical predictions that technology would bring calamity have largely failed

Technology is widely considered the main source of economic progress, but it has generated cultural anxiety throughout history. In a recent paper, we place today’s angst about technological change in a historical context. In particular, we study three prominent concerns: (1) Will technological progress cause a substitution of machines for labour and lead to widespread unemployment; (2) Will technology […]