What is the Future of Business in the 2050s

Future predictions are often very inaccurate.

For example, Back To The Future promised us a hoverboard, while almost everyone who saw Blade Runner couldn’t wait to get their hands on their flying car. Unfortunately, both are not yet publicly available, which is a shame.

Gazing into the future and speculating how the world would look then, is no easy task – too many variables involved. New technologies invisible to anyone can be pulled from cyberspace, while existing fields that have substantial growth potential, may fail to develop as expected. A good example is 3D movies; Time and again they are touted as the future of the film industry because production companies think consumers will take the opportunity to be more immersed in the world that films create.

While this is true to some extent, the popularity of 3D movies is currently declining quite significantly – as it was several times before. Instead, consumers seem much more interested in increasing the resolution they can use to watch their 2D content, as evidenced by the rapid increase in 4K and UHD televisions over the last few years.

Personally, I always enjoy looking at current trends and ideas, and considering how they might evolve over time, so that I can form a mental picture of what the future will look like if things continue on their current path.

Applying this approach to the workplace is quite simple to do, as recently there have been many new ideas and perspectives on how the world of work should evolve over the coming decades, proposed by politicians, academics, think tanks, and business leaders, among others. .

Taking these new ideas into account, and taking into account the changes that have occurred in the workplace over the past few years, going one step further, this is what the 2050s workplace will look like…

Remote Work – The New Normal?

Remote work is on the rise worldwide, and the statistics are staggering. For example, a 2019 study by Forbes found that there has been a 159% increase in remote work in the US since 2007, while the same study estimates that before 2020 ends, 50% of the UK workforce will be working remotely, at least part of the time. . .

Allied to this development, is the decline in much of the western world from the traditional ‘job for life’, where employees remain with the same employer throughout their working life, and their concept of career advancement seeks promotion within the same company.

The reasons for this decline are complex and varied, but it is something that has arisen in part because of the will of both employers – who responded to the economic recession by calling for greater flexibility with respect to workers’ rights – and employees – who responded to decades of wage stagnation by becoming more willing. to switch employers (or even careers) in search of greater opportunities and better working conditions.

In addition to the decay of ‘job for life’ which contributes to greater flexibility for employers and employees, it has led to a substantial increase in the number of people who have become self-employed, multi-tasked, have a side business on top of their day job, or take up freelance work in their spare time.

All of these factors combine to produce a large number of highly productive, trained and educated workers who do not need to be physically present in the main employer’s office between 9am and 5pm, Monday to Friday.

However, many people who enjoy working from home don’t enjoy working alone, and this has led to a massive increase in co-working over the past few years.

The growth of coworking spaces is likely to continue into the 2050s and beyond if, as expected, more workers start working remotely. Indeed, since coworking spaces are busy hubs of activity populated by skilled and enterprising people from diverse backgrounds, it’s only natural that these people connect, network, and synergize with one another – all of which means co-working spaces can become a rich source of new innovations and dynamic startups around the world, not just Silicon Valley.

4 Day Work Week

Even for people in jobs where remote work is not an option, a change in their work patterns may be happening, as the idea of ​​switching to a 4 day work week has been suggested by various academics, think tanks and employers.

For example, Exeter-based travel company STC Expeditions recently completed a 12-week trial of a 4-day week, whereas during the 2019 UK General Elections, Labor had an official policy of making the 4-day week the UK standard. , before 2030.

The logic behind working 4 days a week instead of 5, is that some studies show people’s productivity tends to decrease after about 32 hours of work per week, meaning that another 8 hours of the 40 hour work week can be given back to employees. with little, if any, productivity loss. In fact, a 2019 study by Microsoft Japan found that employee productivity actually increased a staggering 40% when they piloted a 4-day work week over the summer.

Whether the 4 day work week is sustainable over the long term, not just over a limited period of time, and the extent to which Thursday afternoon becomes the new Friday afternoon with respect to productivity, are issues that need to be investigated over the years to come. , and by the 2050s, we will most likely have the answer.

Robots Come For All Of Us

And there is no way out! Like it or not, automation and technological advances mean that sooner or later, our work will be done by robots that can get the job done faster, cheaper and to a better standard than we ever did.

It’s not a change that will happen overnight, but in the 2050s, across a vast array of industries and workplaces, highly skilled custom-built robots will do the jobs that humans are used to.

This is not a new idea, nor is it a new phenomenon. Consider the industrial revolution, when a large number of textile workers found themselves superfluous because of the invention of machines that could do their job without asking for rest, days off or overtime pay.

In more modern times, think of the self-checkout machines in supermarkets, where a dozen or more self-payments can be made available for customers to use, with only one or two shop assistants present to supervise.

The process of custom made robots replacing people in their job roles is called automation, and you will hear more about it in the future, because right now in a number of very large and very important industries, robots are being developed which, by the 2050s, will absorb the work of hundreds of millions of people.

For example, in the US one of the largest sources of employment for men with no college education is driving; whether as a truck driver, taxi driver, Uber driver, courier, or something else along the same lines. Even today, semi-operational self-driving cars, and with the amount of research funding currently invested in making fully functional self-driving vehicles not just a reality, but the norm, sooner rather than later, it seems logical to suggest that by 2050- and most of the driving work will be done by robots, not humans.

No one is safe!

Not that this is a unique phenomenon for the automotive industry. Across all industries and all walks of life, the hope is that robots will do the jobs people do today, in the next few decades.

For example, a 2019 study by Oxford Economics found that 20 million jobs in manufacturing alone could be automated before 2030, and that many people who do these jobs are then likely to find work in related industries that are also highly vulnerable to automation.

In fact, this scenario of widespread global job loss is not as dire as it seems, because since capitalism has become the primary method by which human societies govern their economies, innovation and technological progress have created new job opportunities, as well as eliminated existing ones.

An oft-cited example of this, is how the invention of social media platforms has created the job of Social Media Manager, which is a position that would not have existed even 20 years ago. And to return to the example of the industrial revolution – this is a development that creates a large number of new job opportunities in factories and factories, while eliminating many existing jobs in agriculture and agriculture.

However, the scale of automation that is almost certain to come in the next few decades, can present challenges we haven’t seen before. For example, a 2015 study by the Bank of England estimated that nearly 50% of the UK workforce was at risk of losing their jobs automatically, with those most vulnerable working in admin, manufacturing, administration, maintenance and customer service.

Crisis Management and Free Money For Everyone

With so many people at risk of not only losing their jobs, but also their careers, automatically lost, the next question that arises is, ‘how do we respond to this?’

One potential solution that has received support from all sides of the political spectrum, is the idea of ​​universal basic income (UBI). UBI can be defined as, ‘a model for providing all citizens of a country or other geographical area with some amount of money, regardless of their income, resources or employment status,’ whereas an important principle behind UBI is the idea that ‘all citizens are entitled to livable, regardless of whether they contribute to production or not.’

In short, in a world where large numbers of people will have automatic livelihoods and skills, rendering them unable to compete with robots in a free market economy, how can we ensure that these people can still have a standard of living that gives them dignity? ?

Many brilliant thinkers both past and present have supported the UBI concept because (among other things) it could provide a solution to this problem. Some of the more well-known supporters of UBI include: Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, Bertrand Russell, Franklin Roosevelt, Margaret Mead, Martin Luther King, Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg.

It is also important to note that support for UBI comes from a group of people who usually have very conflicting political views. For example, one of the most well-known modern supporters of UBI is Andrew Yang, an American tech entrepreneur who recently ran as the Democratic nominee for the 2020 presidential election, while on the other side of the political divide, support for UBI comes from neoliberal economists. Milton Friedman, and political scientist Charles Murray, whose views on the issue of race relations can be generously described as ‘controversial’.

It’s also worth noting that the American state of Alaska, which is very conservative, has had a UBI form since 1982. Every year, Alaska residents receive up to $2000 just for living there, without any conditions. What’s more, research has shown that Alaska’s UBI program has helped eradicate extreme poverty in the state, without increasing unemployment.

Letting Go of the Shackles

The relative goodness of UBI, and how it is implemented, is something that requires more serious study and explanation than I will give for this article, but there is one more thing that is important to understand in the context of UBI and how it can happen. affect business in the 2050s. .

Consider for a moment how many frustrated entrepreneurs you know. How many people in your life would want to start a business if they weren’t so attached to the daily pressure of working long hours to pay bills and support their families?

If by the 2050s UBI had been successfully implemented in a number of countries, how many people around the world could use the extra freedom afforded them both time and money, to start a business and pursue their true calling?

With less pressure to pay bills and household expenses, how many bold new services and innovative products will make skilled and educated individuals suddenly have more time to work on projects they love?

The Future Is Yours

Whatever your views on any of the ideas I present in this article, remember that nothing is inevitable, and that the world of the 2050s will be shaped by the actions and desires of ordinary people, around the world.

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August 26, 2021