Friday, August 01, 2014

The Future of Work

There was a very intriguing debate this week on Open Source with Christopher Lydon.  They titled the show “The End of Work” but the two (very famous) thought leaders they had as the main guests were not in agreement that it was over. 

Andrew McAfee, MIT Professor and co-author with Erik Brynjolfsson of the book “The Second Machine Age,” took the position that over time we will create really smart technology that will be able to do all of our work for us.  We can spend our time playing sports, sitting in cafes talking philosophy, and otherwise scratching our butts.  This is the End of Work.

But Ray Kurzweil, currently chief futurist at Google and author of “The Singularity in Near,” took a much different position.  He says that we will indeed automate the jobs that we don’t want to do.  But that will free us up to take on meaningful, and intrinsically motivating jobs. 

Much of the show talked about how to get to either of these two endpoints and what kinds of turmoil there will be between now and then as the less skilled get left behind and unemployment becomes hard to manage economically and socially.  But I am more interested in the difference between the endpoints.

On one hand, there might not be a difference.  If the work someone is doing is so profound and meaningful, is it even work?  Maybe it is the same thing that McAfee’s someone is doing in the cafĂ©. 

But on the other hand, I think there is a fundamental difference between doing the activity for fun and doing it as part of intrinsically motivating work.  Both might have the same tangible goals, but the intangibles can make all the difference.  That is what I have learned through my work (and writing my in-process book) in gamification.  Intrinsic motivation can be incredibly powerful and even more so when the goal adds value to the world, which is what “work” is supposed to be.  The flow state that we reach from the opportunity to apply our skills and abilities to challenging problems can be incredibly powerful.  If it is set up right (which is why I am writing the book). 

What do you think?

This Week in EID – Episode 14

Did anyone catch Thursday’s post on the Airbus bicycle seat?  Of course, pretty much everyone panned the idea and Airbus quickly released a statement that it was just an idea, just a patent, and they had no plans to actually implement them in any airplanes any time soon.  But I think my idea is a good way to salvage it.  Sitting on a bicycle seat would really suck in a transatlantic flight.  But if you are actually in a transatlantic spinning class . . . .

On Wednesday, we talked about the fundamental differences between designing a training program to teach a skill versus a training program to teach knowledge.  The way these types of information are structured in memory is completely different and even in different parts of the brain. So getting it in there has to be different as well.

My metacognition story got more response than any post in EID history. As I write this, there are 20 comments on one Linked In group and 10 on another.  And they just keep coming.  Too bad no one comments on the EID site !!!  That would make it so much easier to keep track.  Oh well, that is what happens with reposting social media strategies.

But Monday was my favorite because it is a topic that I care so much about.  It covered motivation and priming, self-delusion and ethics, and cites one of my top 100 thought leaders – Francesca Gino at Harvard B-School.  Turns out that when you prime people with thoughts of money, they get selfish.  But when you prime them with thoughts of time, they get less selfish.  Apparently, time makes us appreciate the really important things in life, like spending time with friends.