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Human Work is Changing, and is Exponential

Top Takeaways from the 2019 SingularityU Global Summit

3. Human Work is Changing, and is Exponential

There are three potential futures of work, explained Gary Bolles, Chair for the Future of Work at Singularity University. 

There is the one most often depicted in today’s headlines: of technology overtaking our jobs, resulting in a shrinking circle of jobs for today’s workers. 

There is Singularity University Co-Founder & Chancellor Ray Kurzweil’s view, which is the idea of taking exponential/disruptive technologies, and turning them on ourselves to “help us all develop superpowers.” 

The third future is not completely dystopian or utopian, but one in which the two exist simultaneously. 

“It’s a process,” said Bolles. “We need to discuss the ways in which we continually adapt, the strategies that we need to use today that allow us to build a more positive future tomorrow.” 

Kelley Steven-Waiss, EVP & Chief HR Officer of HERE

For a panel discussion, Gary was joined by Stephane Kasriel, CEO of Upwork and Kelley Steven-Waiss, EVP & Chief HR Officer of HERE. The trio examined how, today, work is shifting away from the traditional 9 to 5. 

“What I’m most excited about is that we really have an opportunity to create the future, and live in this abundant mindset,” said Steven-Waiss. “We can point human beings towards work that is more meaningful by leveraging the technology we have today for some of the insights about their skills and aspirations.” 

She stressed the importance of “getting leaders out of a mindset that command, control and hierarchy is the way forward.” The way forward, rather, is teams, and working together towards one mission. 

“If we’re really going to make exponential change in the future of work, we’re going to have to adopt this way of working, and this mindset.” 

A freelancing website, Upwork connects businesses with independent professionals. Stephane Kasriel explained Upwork’s business model, one in which the company makes more money when freelancers make more money. The strategy that works best is one that is bottom-up, he said, where there is a clear strategy at the top, but humans are left to figure out what they need in order to be successful.

Kasriel hopes that we will put the human at the centre – allowing people to do the things in which they excel, outsourcing the dangerous, dirty and demeaning jobs to the machines. 

“What’s driving the change in the workforce today, at least in the freelancer movement, is not big companies, it’s small startups that see a need to operate very differently, and it’s individuals themselves,” he said. 

Individuals today are realizing they want more flexibility, he said, pointing out that Americans spend more time in their cars driving to the office than on vacation.  

“The companies that embrace that will get the best talent, and companies that resist the change and don’t want to experiment are ultimately going to be at a competitive disadvantage,” said Kasriel.