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Jobs for the boys

  • from Shaastra :: vol 01 issue 03 :: May - Jun 2022
The Work of The Future: Building Better Jobs in an Age of Intelligent Machines By David Autor, David A. Mindell, and Elisabeth B. Reynolds; Published by The MIT Press; 192 pages; $29.95

As the gig economy gains momentum, India may find itself sitting on a policy tinderbox that needs fixing.

Looks are deceptive: the cliché sits well on this book for various reasons. To begin with, The Work of The Future: Building Better Jobs in an Age of Intelligent Machines is thin on pages. But on browsing through it seriously, the reader realises that the authors raise tough questions around two big trends to which answers are still evolving: the rise of the 'gig economy', and the inevitability of remote work in the post-pandemic world.

Second, some may feel tempted to dismiss these arguments because the trends the authors — an economics professor; an aeronautics professor; and a Special Assistant at the U.S. National Economic Council — spot, and the prescriptions they offer relate specifically to North America. But these are nascent trends. And while much research is being conducted the world over, there is little data on how to think through the second-order outcomes of these trends.

That is why this book is essential reading for entrepreneurs and policymakers thinking about the nature of jobs and workplaces of the future.

To place that in perspective, in the immediate aftermath of the pandemic, a narrative gained traction that many jobs would become redundant because technology was advancing relentlessly. We witnessed that as remote work started to get real and those at the 'middle' and the 'bottom' started to get hit. But, the authors point out, this narrative isn't new: humans have always feared losing jobs to innovation and technology. If anything, all evidence has it that as innovation gets adopted by the market, new jobs are created.

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