Working Futures: The Future Of Work And The Blurring Of Humans And Machines

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Since releasing our Working Futures book last week, we’ve been profiling the various stories so that people are aware of what kinds of stories are in the book. We profiled the first three, then the next three and earlier this week, another three. Below we’ll profile three more stories and then next week we’ll profile the last few stories in the book as well.

Trash Talk by Holly Schofield explores the kind of job that probably doesn’t get much attention when people talk about “the future of work”: jobs that require manual labor. Many people seem to assume that those will just be entirely automated away, but as this story explores, it’s possible that we’ll just enhance humans with machines, rather than replacing them altogether. And sometimes that might create some, well, tricky situations.

A Quiet Lie by Ross Pruden. We previewed the first half of this story the week before we launched, so you can read it right here on Techdirt. It’s also a story that explores how more traditional jobs might be enhanced by technology, perhaps leading to ideas and concepts that simply aren’t possible today. What’s interesting to me about this one is that people have responded to this particular story in totally divergent ways. Some think that the story presents an exciting possible future world, while others see it as a dangerous path. It’s a kind of test of how you view the world.

The Mummer by James Yu. James talked a bit about his thinking behind this story on our recent podcast, talking about how it explored the blurry lines between when a human “helping” machines becomes a part of the machine itself… while also exploring when a machine becomes increasingly human-like. It’s a fascinating character study that raises a bunch of questions about what is a machine and what is a human being.

I think it’s great that these three stories follow on another in the book, as they all explore different (often very different) aspects of a world in which computers and technology “enhance” work — and the consequences (both good and bad) that can result. These are big questions that we’re going to be dealing with for a long, long time, and these three stories provide some perspectives on ways to think about that issue.

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