Designing the future of work

Designing the future of work

Boing Boing

Over at Democracy Journal, my Institute for the Future colleagues Marina Gorbis and Devin Fidler explore the "digital coordination economy" (aka the on-demand economy) and how "it may take deliberate design choices in platform architecture, business models, new civic services, and public policy to prevent this increasingly seamless “coordination economy” from becoming highly inequitable as well." From Democracy Journal:

As software takes an increasing role on both sides of transactions—ordering and producing—it promises to bring vastly more efficient coordination to these kinds of basic economic functions. This emerging digital coordination economy, with its efficient matching and fulfillment of both human and nonhuman needs, has the potential to generate tremendous economic growth.

However, as software engineers essentially author a growing segment of our economic operating system, it may take deliberate design choices in platform architecture, business models, new civic services, and public policy to prevent this increasingly seamless “coordination economy” from becoming highly inequitable as well. Already the growth of on-demand work has allowed investors and owners in some industrialized regions to reap substantial financial returns while many of the people using platforms to generate income streams are struggling to maintain their standard of living. Uber drivers, for example, have seen a drop in earnings in the United States over the last couple of years, even as the company continues to grow at a dramatic pace.

It is clear that the fundamental technologies driving the coordination economy are neither “good” nor “bad,” but rather offer a heady combination of opportunities and challenges. In order for society to thrive in this future, we will need a new design paradigm—a socio-technical framework in which the economic growth and societal benefits of an increasingly coordinated economy can be maximized. Such a paradigm could encompass: the technical design of platforms, regulatory frameworks necessary to both protect against inherent negative externalities and help distribute opportunities on a more equitable basis, efforts to foster the creation of new ecosystems of services, and public policies that support inclusive prosperity. Perhaps most importantly, it tries to create the most human value out of the big technological shifts that are advancing in stride.

"Prosperity By Design" (Democracy Journal)

For more on IFTF's research on the future of work, visit: Workable Futures Initiative

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