A flexible workforce? Therapy delivered by AI? Experts predict what the future of work will be like by 2050.
The world of work in 2050. If you’re unlucky enough not to have retired by then, the working world will be a very different place to how it is today. The vision of the future for workers tends to scale from a nihilistic view of the robots taking our jobs (leaving us permanently trapped indoors, living entirely from Amazon Prime supplies), through to the utopia of the eradication of repetitive tasks using artificial intelligence. This will leave humans free to think, create and act (while never needing to leave your home…thanks to improved teleworking and those highly convenient Amazon delivery drones).
But what do the experts think it will really be like?
Robots have rights too
Predicted by: Ian Pearson. Ian has been a full-time futurologist for over 25 years, tracking and predicting developments across a wide range of technology, business, society, politics and the environment.
We see a picket line of robots in the city center. Their placards are plastered with slogans written in binary code. The widespread development of robots and artificial intelligence have necessitated the creation of a legal framework to protect them to regulate the rights of intelligent robots. Subsequently, this code is constantly updated and improved so robots have improving rights in our society.
Personal assistants for life
Predicted by: Alexey Malanov
Personal assistants (PAs) have rapidly developed throughout the 21st century. To begin with, they could only answer primitive questions: in 2019, voice assistants were as dumb as a box of rocks. But by 2025, they’d mastered the art of recognizing and transcribing speech (with punctuation marks too); they could understand the meaning of a text and recite it so realistically that it was almost indistinguishable from a human. This led to half of all office activities being automated: PAs began to take minutes, write post-meeting reports, summarize lengthy documents, and consciously digest and recapitulate the contents of messages. They also plan your day, schedule meetings and even order lunch.
Thanks to machine learning, PAs are fully adapted to their owners’ personalities, increasingly penetrating every aspect of their lives. It all began with assisting with office work, and by the mid-2040s, PAs had become an integral part of everyday life by monitoring their owners’ diets, planning trips abroad, buying gifts for friends and family, and more.
But it’s not as rosy as it seems: the human-PA relationship has spawned a plethora of psychological issues and communication difficulties between real people. However, a specially trained AI psychologist is on hand to help us cope. Paradoxically, it’s just another voice assistant.
The power is in your hands
Predicted by: Mersey Shelley is a pseudonym of Alexey Andreyev, writer and futurologist, who works for Kaspersky. This prediction is from his cyberpunk novel ‘2048’ published in 2004.
In decades past, palms and fingers were scanned for identification. Now, hands with implanted sensors become the scanners themselves. These implants come in different models with two main variations: first, a simple scanner for daily use. It helps to read different tags and product codes, and to exchange digital business cards via the handshake ritual (you can use face recognition to identify a stranger but this is considered indecent; besides, many people use protection to prevent recognition. Hats with special veils are popular). Second, sophisticated scanners for technicians and other professionals. For example, a doctor’s hand includes various medical sensors for diagnostics – even a portable endoscope with a direct video stream to the doctor’s visual cortex.
A flexible workforce
Predicted by: Jacob Morgan is a best-selling author, speaker, futurist and founder of FutureOfWorkUniversity.com.
In the year 2050, technology will dominate the workplace with artificial intelligence and smart assistants being commonplace, while the use of augmented and virtual reality continues to increase. Everything will be ‘smart’ – connected and data-driven. The vast majority of us will continue working the same way we are today, but the jobs on offer will be ones that haven’t yet been invented. Emotional intelligence and ‘human’ skills such as perpetual learning will be crucial for leaders to possess, as well as fluency with the latest technologies.
Work will increasingly become more fluid as some employees will be virtual, some will be full-time, some will be bots, and we will all be working non-fixed hours. As with any kind of change, there will be pros and cons. Those who work in routine jobs are likely to struggle to make sure they can stay relevant in the new world of work. The advantage is that this will give us more time to focus on the human aspects of work such as building relationships, being creative, deep thinking, and practicing skills like empathy and self-awareness. Technology will help us make organizations more personable. This also means that we need to get more comfortable with using technology such as bots and AI in our work, a cause of tension and fear for some.
And what about working hours? It depends if you’re a knowledge worker or working in industries like retail. Flexible work arrangements are already being implemented at organizations around the world. The advantages are far-ranging, from improving employee satisfaction, productivity and tenure, to being able to attract and retain top talent. The potential disadvantages here are making sure that employees can stay accountable for delivering high-quality work while feeling like they’re a part of the team, dealing with isolation, and ensuring effective communication and collaboration. I think the pros outstrip the cons: when managed effectively, flexible work arrangements can be a huge benefit to the organization and its people.
Focus on the user experience
Predicted by: Edney Souza, digital culture and business and technology teacher, speaker and entrepreneur, Brazil.
For sure, work will become more fun and those repetitive activities in our day-to-day life will be done by robots and artificial intelligence. Knowing programming logic will be as important as English and mathematics. User experience design (UX) will be more important than other technical components of a project to ensure its success with customers. Skills in solving problems and serving customers will continue to be competitive advantages for the work of the future.