What Will Work Look Like in the Year 2040?
“The five most dangerous words in business are ‘this time it is different.’ Almost always, it is not different.” – Jeff Wald
Admittedly, Jeff Wald harbored an ulterior motive when he dedicated $10 million of his own money to the Future of Work Prize.
Modeled after the X Prize, he created this contest because his editor thought he needed more pages in his book, “The End of Jobs: The Rise of On-Demand Workers and Agile Corporations.” Instead of adding filler, he compiled essays submitted by some of the greatest thinkers in the world, who described their unique visions of what work will look like in 2040.
And though we’ll have to wait until the winner is announced in January 2040, Jeff joined me ahead of time on this week’s episode of “Authors Who Lead” for a conversation about the future of work, artificial intelligence (AI), and technology.
The ‘Why’ Behind the Book
When I asked Jeff why he decided to write this book, he said it was born out of frustration.
He would attend conferences and listen to speakers make predictions about the future of work without any backup — and it took him seven years to write because he did his research, not to mention speaking with some of the brightest minds in his industry.
While it’s impossible to have a perfect prediction of what the world will look like by the year 2040, if we take into account not only the data and discussions around work but also its history, Jeff said he thinks we should have a good estimate.
What Is ‘Work’?
Jeff’s book challenges the notion of what “work” actually is. Through our society’s evolution, it has witnessed four different industrial revolutions that’ve changed how people do their jobs.
As supply and demand for workers fluctuated with each of these revolutions, there was a direct shift in education. As a teacher for many years, I pushed back against the notion of what education is, too — considering, historically, it’s catered toward creating a new workforce.
The educational system is falling behind on the supply and demand for educational workers as technology evolves. Jeff tells me that we need to ask more “why” questions in order to think critically and predict what jobs will still have value in the future, which will ultimately lead to better educational systems in the modern age.
Three Important Technology Shifts
There are three major technology changes — mechanization, electrification and computerization — that alter the supply and demand for workers, but can also disrupt society. Jeff explains that it is important to study them in order to combat job losses and restore any shortages that result from them.
By far, most workers are afraid of losing their jobs and being replaced by computers and AI, Jeff says, and I can understand that these fears are valid, to a certain degree. If we study different companies, their workers and the jobs they do, we can see where a shift to automation might occur. Any job that has repetitive tasks, such as data entry, could be done by an AI, as could certain rote customer service and retail jobs.
There are two categories of jobs that will shape our future of work, that will stand the test of time. And Jeff says to “go hard,” or go all in, with them.
The first is technology itself — from AI and robotics to blockchain and computers — and the second is human fields of work, or jobs that require human interaction, design, creativity, and empathy.
The Future Educational System
In order to meet the supply and demand for workers in the future, the educational system will need to help train or retrain workers for the two “go hard” categories of technology and human work.
Historically, companies have not seen highly educated workers coming straight out of college. This creates more strain on these young workers, many of whom are entering the workforce already in debt. To fix the problem, Jeff says we need to push young people away from four-year universities and more toward hands-on education in one of the two “go hard” categories.
As you think about what job or career you would like to pursue, remember my greatest takeaways from my conversation with Jeff:
- Advice on future work: “Go hard” in a field of technology, or an area of humanity and empathy.
- Not everyone needs to attend college. Sometimes, our value lies in the human quality.
- Future work of 2040 is still up for grabs. The future is shifting quickly.
What was your biggest takeaway from the episode? What do you think the future of work will look like? Share in the comments below!
That’s all for this week. Our futures will shift quickly, so live life to the fullest and start writing today!