The Future of Work

By Brain McLeish, Scottish Enterprise

Niels Bohr famously said “prediction is very difficult, especially about the future” and that seems to be especially true when it comes to the future of work. Research into the impact of automation, in particular, has resulted in some lurid headlines over the last few years.

As identified in the introduction to this collection of essays compiled by the RSA Future Work Centre, the narrative around this is often plagued by four problems. Firstly, a fixation on the impact of one or two (often glamorous) technologies, e.g. sophisticated algorithms. Related to this is the (seemingly relentless) focus on automation as if this is the only way that technological development impacts on the world of work. Research also too often takes as its starting point the theoretical possibility of technological change rather than what is actually being implemented. And finally, there a lack of system-level analysis to look at how changes in one sector of the economy will impact on others.

This essay collection aims to take a broader view, to challenge perceptions and, ultimately, raise more questions than it attempts to provide answers. This is, of course, one of the most useful actions anyone can take in relation to prediction – asking the right questions.


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