The Future of Work – An Artist’s Perspective

The future of work is a concern for many. As we advance technology with artificial intelligence, with drones, with massive analytical capabilities we ask, will machines replace humans? Will there be any jobs left? What will we humans do?

In 2014, I was invited to present my Vision for Houston in 2040. This vision focused on our living environment, the combination of urbanism and nature. Since then, I’ve realized we also need to change how we live at the social level.

Currently we each carry a dollar sign on our chest. It is our value. It is what categorizes us and makes some targets to pursue and others untouchables. It gives us license to adore some and the ability to turn others invisible in their very presence. We relate to each other according to this value but aren’t we more than that?

If we look at Maslow’s hierarchy of needs we can find a guide for developing our social make-up.

Maslow's pyramid of needs. Found on Wikipedia.

Maslow’s pyramid of needs. Found on Wikipedia.

Each person is unique. We each come to this life with certain gifts. I propose that we allow each person to pursue the development of those gifts, that we allow them to be their passion. With free education to pursue the development of those skills and knowledge people will become richer in areas that make them happy.

By providing a universal basic income thanks to the automation of much of the work we will enable everyone to meet their physiological needs along with their needs for safety and security. Everyone would have food and shelter where they decide to live.  This would be a standard.

We would then be free to pursue love and belonging, esteem, and self actualization. We would become givers instead of takers. Creators instead of consumers. We would all be free to become philanthropists of the gifts we have to give and these gifts would be developed to the level we desire. Some people would pursue technical paths, some would pursue social or natural areas. We would be able to match those who are young and curious with incessant questions with those who are senior and experienced looking to share their accrued knowledge and wisdom.

Everyone could become a master or an expert, or obtain enough experience to suffice for the needs of sharing in their community. The choice would be theirs. Those who want to pursue more could do so. Those who have had a life of making widget number 5 all their life would be invited to learn that which always called to them. This would not stop them from pursuing the great fish that got away but would give meaning to their retirement by giving them the opportunity to kick around that which they always wanted to pursue or practice, even if it was what they always did and loved. They would share of themselves with those looking for just that ability. Each person would be honored at all points of their life.

By finding the space to pursue love and belonging they would become esteemed members of their community. By finding and developing their true calling people would identify their place in the community. For the love of it, they would be scientists, engineers, technology experts, analysts enhancing the the advancements that make life hum. There would be those who engage in the social make-up of the community filling the creative, spiritual, and human need. And there would be those who become explorers, philosophers, and those who contemplate the essence of life. There would be those who become specialists and those who become generalists testing life in various areas at different times in their life. Everyone would be a teacher and a giver at one time or another, some more than others.

By enabling everyone to create a specific space for themselves in the community and valuing them for who they are, we can change the way we see “work” and live. We will recognize that each individual is important for who they are and what they contribute to the rest of us or the world in thought, product or presence. Not to pursue consumption but quality of life and enjoyment. We would pursue the purpose of being human.


My Definition of Sustainability

The standard definition of sustainability:

Utilizing resources in a manner that will allow future generations to continue to capitalize on them.

This definition reflects one train of thought. The focus on capitalization of resources supports that sustainability is non-attainable because our purpose in life is not to consume finite resources. Our purpose in life is broader and therefore to be sustainable or to continue to develop in a sustainable manner requires that we consider other aspects important to our development as well.

I once again bring Maslow into the picture of sustainability.

As human beings we have physical, mental and emotional needs. Maslow shows us that as we further our development we can achieve higher levels of satisfaction. These needs begin as physical and primary but cannot diverge from the mental or the emotional needs. As our needs are met, we can say we leverage the ability to achieve higher levels of sophistication such as philanthropy and philosophy but this ability towards depth is present at every level. We are always free to give and to ponder.

The narrow definition of sustainability brings to mind a silk worm but our needs are greater than a life of consumism and production. I also remember the saying, “who ever dies with the most toys wins”, and I wonder why lack of fulfillment leads to the consumption of ongoing ‘solutions’ of instant satisfaction.

By understanding what sustainability truthfully entails we can begin to look at what we have not addressed to truly develop our life in a sustainable way.

With these thoughts in mind, a venture at defining sustainable development to include the creation (invention) and preparation (education) of resources (ideas and people) in the mental, physical and emotional realm (economic, environmental, and social) to allow for the proper utilization of natural or created resources (tangible and ‘intangible’) in a manner that will allow future generations to pursue and achieve happiness and quality of life for more people without exhausting the environment we live in and jeopardizing humanity.

With this definition, life purpose can focus on purposeful and incremental peace, enjoyment and sharing.

How do you see it?




  • May 2017
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