Summary: The pandemic is dehumanizing work in other ways, as companies accelerate efforts to swap out vulnerable humans with virus-proof machines.
Original author and publication date: Anne Kim – October 31, 2020
Futurizonte Editor’s Note: We (humans) are replacing ourselves by robots. How soon robos decided to replace us by more robots?
From the article:
The COVID-19 pandemic has upended the idea of “work.” With face-to-face contact now risky, entire industries—like retail and food service—have been devastated, while the office as we know it, at least for the moment, is dead. Our interactions with customers and colleagues are muffled by face masks or mediated by the pixelated coldness of a computer screen. Work for many Americans is now alienating and isolated—assuming there’s a job at all.
The pandemic is dehumanizing work in other ways, as companies accelerate efforts to swap out vulnerable humans with virus-proof machines. Robots serving cappuccinos in Tokyo coffee shops might be just the start. The Brookings Institution estimates that 36 million U.S. jobs are “highly” susceptible to elimination over the next decade, while doomsday futurists like Martin Ford have warned of a “jobless future.” This grim prediction is why the former presidential candidate Andrew Yang and others who are worried about mass joblessness believe that a universal basic income is necessary.
In refreshing defiance of this existential gloom is Human Work, a compelling new book on the future of work by Lumina Foundation President Jamie Merisotis. (Merisotis is a former Washington Monthly staffer and a frequent contributor, and Lumina is one of the magazine’s funders.) In Merisotis’s view, automation brings liberation, not threat. It frees workers to focus on the uniquely human activities that robots cannot do—such as thinking, collaborating, and innovating—and to embrace the traits that robots cannot have, such as compassion, empathy, and ethics.
The result, Merisotis argues, could be a collective redefinition of what work means, and perhaps even a new sense of purpose. A bracing shot of optimism amid the current disruption, Human Work is a reminder of the human values we haven’t lost, even as the pandemic has robbed us—at least for now—of physical connection.
“People cannot and should not compete with machines for work,” Merisotis writes. Rather, “people need to focus on what makes us different from machines by developing our knowledge, skills and abilities [to put] human capabilities and values first.”