Viewpoint: What does the future of work look like?

Viewpoint: What does the future of work look like?

Posted by: Bizjournals

It is a question we can’t afford to speculate on, as automation, artificial intelligence, and the cloud are all changing the nature of work dramatically.

Predictions about the impact of digital transformations on the job market are so disparate that only two certain conclusions can be made: We don’t know how many jobs will be lost or created due to technological progress, and dramatic change in the nature of work will continue to unfold. Augmented by machines or by algorithms, how we work will be transformed — whether on a Xianchen factory floor or in high-rise offices in Boston.

MIT Solve has made advancing solutions to tough challenges its mission. Solve, an initiative of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, is a marketplace for social impact innovation that focuses on four issue areas: sustainability, health, learning, and economic prosperity — the last of which can’t be achieved without solid jobs.

Tech advancements will create new jobs and industries we have yet to imagine. They will liberate us from rote tasks, increase our productivity and leave us time to explore our creativity. However, it is critical that we use technology to mitigate this transition for those left behind, and ensure it expands the possibilities for everyone to attain their full potential.

Some jobs are threatened by redundancy, others are growing rapidly; all will require different skill sets. Re-skilling those in the global labor force to ensure they have access to new opportunities afforded by automation, and up-skilling everyone to gain adaptable skills, will be crucial to ensure we remain not just employable, but also achieve fulfilling careers.

A path to innovative job creation is the gig economy, as an increasing number of people take up flexible work as contractors and freelancers. In the US alone, 34% of the workforce is freelancing. Supplementing those platforms that facilitate the exchange of goods, services, and capital, with safety nets that protect the health and rights of workers is crucial in making no-collar jobs—including ride-share drivers—a path to climbing up the socio-economic ladder. Interestingly, those same platforms can serve as a gateway to global markets for local artisans and craftspeople (with the cultural sectors counting up to 3% of global GDP).

At MIT Solve, we aim to find and support tech-based solutions that ensure everyone can fully participate and profit from new work opportunities afforded by AI and other tech advances. A member of a previous Solver class, Laboratoria, trains women in Latin America to become web developers and designers and connects them with technology companies seeking their talent. And DoctHERS reintegrates the 50,000 licensed female healthcare providers who are excluded from the Pakistani workforce by using a digital health platform to connect remotely located female doctors to health consumers in need.

We must offer pathways like these to up-skill workers; connect them to the demands of employers; and develop inclusive platforms that support temporary, informal and freelance workers, to help provide increased stability.

Finally, we must support women and marginalized groups to participate early in the creation of new technologies, so that they can actively shape the industries of the future and prosper.

Creating jobs is challenging, we know. But so much greatness has been born of a simply good idea. We encourage anyone with a solution that will expand and enhance work opportunities of the future to submit it to and join the MIT Solve community.

Hala Hanna is managing director, MIT Solve.

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