Working Futures: The Future Of Work And The Blurring Of Humans And Machines

from the it-gets-complicated dept

Order your copy of Working Futures today »

Since releasing our Working Futures book last week, we’ve been profiling the various stories so that people are aware of what kinds of stories are in the book. We profiled the first three, then the next three and earlier this week, another three. Below we’ll profile three more stories and then next week we’ll profile the last few stories in the book as well.


Trash Talk by Holly Schofield explores the kind of job that probably doesn’t get much attention when people talk about “the future of work”: jobs that require manual labor. Many people seem to assume that those will just be entirely automated away but, as this story explores, it’s possible that we’ll just enhance humans with machines, rather than replacing them altogether. And sometimes that might create some, well, tricky situations.

A Quiet Lie by Ross Pruden. We previewed the first half of this story the week before we launched, so you can read it right here on Techdirt. It’s also a story that explores how more traditional jobs might be enhanced by technology, perhaps leading to ideas and concepts that simply aren’t possible today. What’s interesting to me about this one is that people have responded to this particular story in totally divergent ways. Some think that the story presents an exciting possible future world, while others see it as a dangerous path. It’s a kind of test of how you view the world.

The Mummer by James Yu. James talked a bit about his thinking behind this story on our recent podcast, talking about how it explored the blurry lines between when a human “helping” machines becomes a part of the machine itself… while also exploring when a machine becomes increasingly human-like. It’s a fascinating character study that raises a bunch of questions about what is a machine and what is a human being.


I think it’s great that these three stories follow one another in the book, as they all explore different (often very different) aspects of a world in which computers and technology “enhance” work — and the consequences (both good and bad) that can result. These are big questions that we’re going to be dealing with for a long, long time, and these three stories provide some perspectives on ways to think about that issue.

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Comments on “Working Futures: The Future Of Work And The Blurring Of Humans And Machines”

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14 Comments
Samuel Abram (profile) says:

In case you don't want to give Jeff Bezos money…

If you don’t like Kindle or their DRM or don’t want to strip off the DRM of their books but want to read the collection of short stories in the format of your choice, you could download the EPUB here or the PDF here. However, TechDirt needs to be supported, so you can support them here.

Share the book if you can, but make sure you support TechDirt in the process!

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Optimus Average says:

"Prime of Life" -- Missed your calling as an actuary, eh?

First, you’re charging $2.99 for 1013129 bytes including the wasteful PDF formatting?

I skimmed thoroughly Wednesday, and didn’t get back because it’s not worth bothering with. Just CRAP as I predicted.

I’m disappointed. Expected hoots. You’re going on about insurance. Yeesh.

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Optimus Average says:

Re: "Prime of Life" -- Missed your calling as an actua

[Skims to:]

Basically, they recognized that your life insurance company had more incentives in keeping you alive than your health insurance company, who might find it more economical if you died.

The assertion is just plain wrong because so complex! — As trivial case, the first few premiums are pure gravy because there’s a waiting period before any payout. And they "invest" premiums, so actually rely on productive corporations and gov’t to make money for them!

The health insurance side actually has nearly no incentive to keep you alive, that’s why so many strictures in statute and moral considerations are applied.

Having gone so wrong on premise, you can’t possibly make any valid points.

[Skims on…] DOOG DOG! You labor on for PAGES! Do you REALLY think anyone is going to slog through and follow that?

HOW LONG are you going to run pieces trying to promote this? You look desperate. — And, will you ever state sales numbers?

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Optimus Average says:

Re: "Prime of Life" -- Missed your calling as an actua

Special note to Timmy: Read yours enough I state "read". I’ll go so far to state you’re the least objectionable because most realistic, BUT it’s still a routine idea with fixed outcome ineptly written.

My expectation (and urge) when you specified "knee high" robots all over is the character starts kicking them out of the way. But that’s another, better, story, eh?

Start editing. Cut out details of motions unless vital, merge so less text, and punch it up: "She sat down at her desk. Grace, her long-time AI ‘assistant’, popped up with the day’s sched. There is no way to turn off the computerized devil in techno-hell. She regarded it coldly, even knowing its AI calculated that her thoughts were robo-cidal."

Take my slant and try to write it. Sincerely, one letter-arranger to another.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: "Prime of Life" -- Missed your calling as an actuary, eh?

including the wasteful PDF formatting?

Wait. Let me get this straight. First, you, as an entitled brat, demand that Samuel make you a PDF of this and then, after he does so, you then blame Techdirt for the "wasteful PDF formatting" that you know they didn’t do since you were the one who asked for it in the first place.

For someone who constantly calls out people here claiming they’re entitled, you should maybe look in the mirror.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
PaulT (profile) says:

Re: "Prime of Life" -- Missed your calling as an actuary, eh?

"First, you’re charging $2.99 "

You have the choice not to pay if you don’t think it’s worth your money. The authors are even kind enough to allow you to read without paying, which immediately makes it more valuable than most of the trash you do support.

"Just CRAP as I predicted."

Fun fact: art is subjective. Your opinion is irrelevant to anybody else’s enjoyment. In actual fact, there might be people who read your monic drivel and decide to pay just to spite you! Thanks for increasing sales of this creative endeavour.

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Roy Rogers says:

Re: humans and machnines

The opposite has been true in the past.

I believe it will be different this time though.

In the past, for example, we trained shovel handlers how to drive a tractor. Not a whole lot of training involved.

This time will be different in that job training will take years to complete, not days or months. By the time they are trained, they will likely need to be, at least partially, retrained because of the pace of tech advances.

Entertainment will be the only jobs of the future.

You can be a court jester for the elite or be their prey after they become so bored that they start hunting other humans for sport.

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