Why a Humane Future of Work?
I always considered myself a humanist. I love humans, I find us fascinating. I sometimes dislike some of them, I can even hate a few, but most of the time I love them. We are capable of the worst, but also the best. We can be cruel, selfish and greedy, but we can also be compassionate, caring, generous and noble. We have inflicted a lot of suffering and harm and we have done many terrible things, but we have also achieved great ones. We have been progressing and improving and I think we have the potential to get better and better.
As a humanist, liberty, equal opportunities for all, human rights, prosperity, wellbeing and the opportunity to be able to reach your potential in life are important values for me. I think we have progressed a lot towards enabling these values in our society, but there is still a long way to go. I hope our future will have more of these, not less.
As explained by the Roslings in their popular book Factulness*, we have a tendency to only look at the negative side of things and we have this feeling that things are getting worse and worse, but they are getting better. They were never better actually. Hunger, extreme poverty and the number of wars have been going down consistently over the last decades, while access to clean water, literacy levels and the reach of the internet have been going up.
The world was never in better shape, but we still have plenty of problems to solve: extreme poverty, climate change, hunger, the cure of diseases like cancer and Alzheimer, rampant inequality, etc. We need every help we can get to solve these. We need AI and technology to help us solve these and other problems, but we need to be careful on how we use them.
As a humanist and a representative of the human species, I consider it normal to want to have a future in which we still have an important part to play, we are happy, feel content and can conduct a fulfilling life (with our disappointments, challenges, problems and sad moments, but that’s part of life too). I believe work is an important part of that future.
The importance of work
Today we find a big part of our fulfilment at work. This wasn’t always the case: there have been different views of work throughout history and until relatively recently it wasn’t considered to be fulfilling or even necessary or desirable in one’s life.
It is possible that we will have to re-learn to live without work and to value other things in our life to feel fulfilled and content, but right now most of us still consider work a very important part of our lives and many amongst us even derive our identity, value as a person and our worth in society from work. I am not saying this is the right way and as it should be, but I think it is a normal state of being in many cases.
What is undeniable is that work is a very important element in our lives, because it makes us feel valuable, it gives us a sense of worth (in some cases), it keeps us occupied, it puts in front of us challenges that excite us or make us strive and grow, and last but not least, because it is the main means by which most of us are able to get the money we will need to feed ourselves and our families, to buy clothes, a house, go on vacation and everything else we purchase with our money.
From all this follows that if we want to have a future in which humans can thrive and be happy, we will need to look at the future of work as an important element of that still-to-happen future.
A Human and Humane Future of Work
There is a lot of talk about the Future of Work (yes, in capital letters, as it has become a proper name). It has become one of the hottest and most talked about topics, not only within the cloistered world of HR and management literature, but also outside those walls, in the wider society.
Everybody talks about it, often very excitedly and passionately, but the discussion often circles around technology, the marvellous things AI will be able to do, and the human aspect gets ignored or forgotten. There are some discussions on the impact of automation on employment levels and the need to upskill the workforce to keep the pace of automation and technological innovation, as if these were phenomena completely outside of our control. We have something to say on the use of technology and how it will affect our future.
Some people seem to forget that the economy and the companies forming it are made by people, for people. Without people there are no workers, no consumers, no shareholders, no entrepreneurs. It is well and good to talk about technology, me too I find it fascinating, but let’s not forget the people who will be living that Future of Work, suffering or enjoying it.
This is why I think we should work towards building a human and a humane Future of Work. Humans should be at the centre of it and we need to ensure that this Future of Work is made by humans and for humans.
It should be a very human Future of Work, in which our concerns as workers and consumers are taken into consideration and built into the model, but human isn’t enough, it should also be humane. Greed and cruelty are very human traits and I’m not sure we would like to build a future in which these or other unpleasant human traits took centre stage. I, for one, wouldn’t, and if I can I’d like to avoid this.
That’s why apart from being human, we especially need our Future of Work to be humane.
If we look at a dictionary definition, humane means:
1 : marked by compassion, sympathy, or consideration for humans or animals
humane prison guards
a more humane way of treating farm animals
I think both are spot on definitions on how our Future of Work should be. We will build this future by our actions today, actions by all and each of us. I would like to humbly contribute to the creation of this future and this is why I have created this space.
Here I will be writing my thoughts on the trends and drivers shaping the Future of Work, forecasts and scenarios on how that future could look like and I will express my take on how to build a Humane Future of Work. I decided to create this platform to share my insights and thoughts about this exciting topic, as only by knowing better our potential future can we shape it and steer it in the right direction. However, the aim of this site is not just to be a simple repository of information, but a call to action for a better future.
Let’s build a Humane Future of Work together!
*Rosling, Hans et al. Factfulness
Originally published at https://humanefutureofwork.com on June 11, 2020.