Review Of Working Futures

from the thinking-positively-about-the-future dept

It's been over six months since we released Working Futures, our collection of speculative fiction about the future of work, but it's nice to see a great review of the collection by James Pethokoukis, talking about how it's a helpful way to think about the future of work and jobs beyond the traditional "the robots will take all the jobs."

Some possible answers — or at least new ways of thinking about that question — might be found in “Working Futures” from late 2019. It’s an intriguing anthology of 14 speculative stories about the intersection of jobs and advancing automation. The pieces emerged from a 2018 scenario-planning exercise in San Francisco involving some 50 techies, entrepreneurs, investors, lawyers, and others. The resulting 10 “future worlds” were then sent to science fiction writers to be used as launching pads for their imaginations. In the book’s introduction, editor Michael Masnick writes that each story “contributes something to our thinking on the future of innovation and work, and what the world might soon look like—in both good and bad ways.”

Pethokoukis highlights a few of the stories that he liked best (click through to his review to find out which ones!) along with how the stories show both negative and positive elements of technology changing the nature of work -- and suggests that these kinds of approaches are going to be quite useful for thinking about how the world will change post-pandemic:

Among the other future jobs explored: a third-party human resources officers for AI workers getting hired, fired, or transferred; preschool teachers for genetically modified kiddies; a “life services broker” to help consumers navigate among the megacompanies supplying all their subscription-based services, from housing to healthcare to education; and a virtual reality therapist who lets CGI “prints” handle the easier stuff, although the patient may not know it.

These aren’t really dystopian stories, although some depict worlds with big problems. Technology might help create a better society in some ways, but not a perfect one. And while technology might totally automate some jobs, in others it allows humans to do more....


We need more speculative efforts like these, especially post-pandemic when there are sure to be some significant labor market and workplace changes in addition to the ones generated by new tech. We need stories about how things might work out, even if they’re not all positive.

Glad to see that people are still enjoying the anthology, and indeed, we've been having some discussions about whether or not we should do a follow up collection.

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Filed Under: future of work, science fiction, speculative fiction, working futures

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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 19 May 2020 @ 3:19am

    Re: Not a fan of AEI

    Yeah the whole thing looks incredibly juvenile.

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