Friday, October 1, 2021

Business in the 2050s: What the Future of Work Could Look Like

 Many predictions of the future are wildly inaccurate.

Back To The Future, for example, promised hoverboards. But, almost everyone who saw Blade Runner could not wait to own a flying car. It is sad that neither of these are yet readily available to the public.

It is difficult to look into the future and speculate on how it will look in the future. There are too many variables. While new technologies may emerge that no one expected, existing fields with significant growth potential may not develop as planned. 3D films are a good example. They have been called the future of film because producers believe that consumers will jump at the opportunity to immerse themselves in the films' worlds.

Although this is true to a certain extent, 3D film popularity is declining significantly as it has been repeatedly before. Consumers are now keener to improve the resolution on which they can view their 2D content. This is evident in the rapid rise of UHD and 4K televisions over the past few years.

Personally, I enjoy looking at current trends and ideas and imagining how they might change over time. This allows me to form a mental picture about the future if things continue along their current course.

This approach is easy to apply to the workplace, as there have been many new perspectives and ideas recently, including those from politicians, academics and business leaders.

These are the ideas and changes that have been made in the workplace over the past few years. This is how the workplace of 2050s could look.

Remote Work - The New Normal?

Remote working is on the rise in all parts of the globe, and the statistics are staggering. Forbes' 2019 study found that remote working has increased by 159% in the USA since 2007. The same study predicts that 50% of the UK workforce will be working remotely before 2020.

This development is allied to the decline of the traditional "job for life" in western countries. Employees stayed with the same employer their entire working lives, and their idea of career progression was pursuing a promotion within that company.

Although the reasons for this decline are complicated and multifaceted, they can be attributed to both employers who responded to economic recessions with greater flexibility in labour rights and employees who responded to decades of wage stagnation by being more open to changing employers or careers in search for better opportunities and working conditions.

It has led to a significant increase in self-employment, which allows for greater flexibility for employees and employers.

These factors combine to create a large number of highly-productive, well-trained and well educated workers who don't need to be present at the workplace of their primary employer between 9am and 5pm Monday through Friday.

Many people who work from home don't enjoy being alone. This has led to a significant increase in co-working.

If more people work remotely, co-working spaces will continue to grow. As co-working spaces grow into busy activity hubs, populated with skilled and enterprising individuals from a variety o backgrounds, it is only natural for these people to connect, network, and synergise. This means that co-working spaces could be a fertile resource of new innovations and vibrant startups around the globe, not just in Silicon Valley.

4 Day Workweek

Remote working may not be an option for some people, but there are changes that could be made to their work patterns, according to various think tanks, academics, and employers.

STC Expeditions, a travel company based in Exeter, recently tried the 4-day workweek for 12 weeks. However, during the 2019 UK General Elections, Labour Party declared that the UK's standard work week would be the 4 Day Workweek.

Working 4 days per week is logical. Several studies have shown that productivity tends to drop after 32 hours of work per week. This means that 8 hours of the 40-hour workweek could be returned to employees with very little loss of productivity. Microsoft Japan's 2019 study found that employees were actually more productive if they tried a 4-day workweek during the summer.

We will soon know the answer to whether a 4-day workweek is sustainable over the long-term.

All Robots are Coming for Us

There is no escape. Automation and technological advancements mean that robots will soon be able to do our jobs faster, cheaper, and with a higher standard than us.

This isn't a sudden change. But by 2050s, robots that are highly skilled and custom-made will be performing the same jobs as humans.

This isn't a new concept. Take the industrial revolution. It was a time when many textile workers were surplus to their needs due to the inventions of machines that could perform their jobs without them having to request overtime, day off, or break periods.

Modern times are characterized by self-checkout machines at the supermarket. Customers can use a dozen or more of these machines with just one or two assistants to assist them.

Automation is the process of robots taking over people's jobs. You will hear more about this in the future. Robots are currently being developed in several large, very important industries. By the 2050s they will have replaced hundreds of millions of people.

In the USA, vehicle driving is a major source of non-college educated male employment. This includes being a driver for a truck, taxi, Uber driver, courier or other similar roles. Self-driving cars today are only semi-operational. Given the amount of research funding currently being invested in making fully functional self driving vehicles a reality sooner than expected, it seems logical that the majority of driving jobs by 2050s will be performed by robots and not humans.

Nobody Is Safe!

This phenomenon is not unique to the auto industry. Robots are expected to take over the jobs of people in all industries within the next few years.

Oxford Economics' 2019 study found that 20,000,000 jobs in the manufacturing sector could be automated by 2030. Many of those who work these jobs will then seek out jobs in closely related industries, which are also vulnerable to automation.

This scenario of mass job loss is not so catastrophic as it seems. Since capitalism has been the main method through which societies have organized their economies, technological advances and innovations have created new opportunities as well as eliminated existing jobs.

One example is the creation of the position of Social Media Manager by the invention of social media platforms. This job is something that is rarely seen today. Recalling the industrial revolution, this development created a lot of new jobs in factories and other industries while eliminating many existing agricultural jobs.

The sheer volume of automations that will be occurring over the next few years may pose a challenge like none before. A 2015 Bank of England study found that almost half of the UK's workforce could be at risk of having their jobs automated. The most vulnerable were those in care, admin, manufacturing and customer service.

Crisis Management & Free Money for All

Many people are at risk of losing their jobs and their careers. The next question is: "How do we deal with this?"

A universal basic income (UBI) is a potential solution that has been supported by people from all political sides. UBI can be described as "a model that provides all citizens of a country, or other geographical area, with a certain sum of money regardless of their income, resource or employment status." The fundamental principle behind UBI, however, is that "all citizens have the right to a livable living standard, regardless of whether they contribute to production."

In other words, in a world in which a lot of people will lose their jobs and skilled skills, leaving them unable compete against robots within a free-market economy how can we ensure these people have dignity while still maintaining a decent standard of living?

A UBI could be a solution to this problem. It has been supported by many brilliant minds, past and present. Some of the most prominent supporters of UBI are: Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln, Bertrand Russell and Franklin Roosevelt. Margaret Mead and Martin Luther King, Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg, and Martin Luther King.

It is important to remember that UBI support has been gathered from people with opposing political views. Andrew Yang, an American tech entrepreneur, is one of the most prominent proponents of UBI. He recently ran for the Democratic nomination for 2020. On the opposite side of the political divide, UBI support came from Milton Friedman, the neoliberal economist, and Charles Murray, the political scientist whose views on race relations can be generously described as 'controversial.

Also, it is worth noting that Alaska, an American state, has had UBI since 1982. Alaskan residents receive $2000 each year for simply living in Alaska, without any restrictions. Studies have also shown that Alaska's UBI program has contributed to the elimination of extreme poverty without increasing unemployment.

Releasing the Shackles

UBI's relative merits and implementation are complex issues that require careful study and more explanations than I can offer. However, there is another important point to be aware of in the context UBI and how it might impact business in 2050s.

Think about how many entrepreneurs you know who are frustrated. What number of people in your life would be excited to start a business?

How many people would be able to take advantage of the extra freedoms they have in time and money to start their own businesses or pursue their true calling if UBI was implemented successfully in several countries by the 2050s?

How many new services and products could be created if there was less pressure to pay bills and other expenses? What if skilled, educated people had more time to pursue their passion projects?

The Future is Yours

No matter what your opinion is on the ideas in this article it's important to remember that nothing is certain and that the 2050s world will be shaped and influenced by ordinary people around the globe.


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