This latest US foresight report will help policymakers, workers and employers groups, the United Nation’s labour agency, the ILO, as well as the readers of this blog get the latest information informing debate about the future impacts of automation and digitalization on the global workforce. Foresight is essential in helping us prepare for the potential impacts of disruptive technologies in the future of work we want. “Seizing the future of the digital revolution is not chance or fate – it is a matter of skill and foresight,” says UNDP (2015, 9).
This spring 2017 report complements the Go-To Resources on Tech@Work published this winter. For more resources, including infographics and videos, click on our new Tech@Work Digital Library, where we have curated a list core resources exploring the new frontiers of work and technology.
This US National Academies’ report explores the current state and postulates the possible futures the current trends might be leading to. The report is a part of the National Science Foundation’s 10 Big Ideas for Future NSF Investment, in particular its initiative on Work at the Human-Technology Frontier: Shaping the Future. The central aim of the Work at Human-Technology Frontier initiative is to provide the latest evidence on how technology choices affect the American workforce. It also aims to improve the design of policies and technologies to increase their benefit to workers, the economy and society.
The report’s analysis of many topics related to our Technology@Work Initiative is thorough and in-depth. It covers seven research agenda themes, starting with a ground-clearing exercise that tracked the current progress of technology, studying the impacts of policy choices, changing labour and skills demands and delving into new data sources, methods, and infrastructures Americans need, just to name a few. The report placed an emphasis on new multidisciplinary evidence emerging from the feedback loops between micro – (firm level) and macro- (national economy) levels.
Six general findings emerged from this study. Chief among the findings is the concern of rising neo-feudalist inequality as highlighted at the UN’s Global Dialogue on the Future of Work We Want in April 2017. The National Academies noted that found technological change is accelerating US domestic inequality, unfairness, and job instability.
The authors of the foresight study also concluded that technology is a shaper but not a determinant of the future of work. There was also a clear call for new data and research that support the longitudinal tracking and analysis of workforce trends and technological progress.
“An overarching theme emerges: economic and societal changes occasioned by technological development are shaped, not just by the availability of new technologies and their features, but also by ideologies, power structures, and human aspirations and agenda” (pg. 54).