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.

 

Sustainability vs. Sustainable Development

Not that these terms are adversarial but I do see them as a bit different from each other. So what are the differences that I see and what does each one mean to me?

I see sustainability as the things that we do to keep us viable on a ‘personal’ level. These may be the processes we follow to produce what we create or the service we provide or how we live. Do we use the most efficient method? Do we avoid creating or discarding waste? Do we use materials that promote the sustainable performance of our vendors? Does our product or service help others be more sustainable? And in carrying out this work, do we do it by creating the least impact? Do we create the smallest carbon footprint we can?

So I see sustainability as the work we do at the ‘individual’ level as a person, company or organization, to help maximize the work of others and expand on the work we do ourselves.

Sustainable Development on the other hand, I see is the collective effort. It is the work we can do together to create an environment that provides for a good quality of life for more people by looking at the future through many and multiple points of view. The future is what we build today but if we are not good stewards, there can be little future. Our task then is to find better and more effective and efficient ways to develop sustainably, and satisfy more people now and tomorrow. An exciting challenge.

How can we develop more sustainably? We have to work together. We have to look to the future and see what we would like that future to look like. It will not be a complete picture but it will help spark our collective innovation and creativity. Perhaps not just on an individual basis but more on a group basis. In other words, my ideas may help you improve yours, and his may help me improve mine, and hers may help improve theirs, all in a more open and contributing effort so that we can learn and improve exponentially, as time is of the essence.

When we look at things through the lense of sustainable development it is to our best interest to pool our human capital and financial resources together to improve our outcome. No one has the total resources to make a single decision to create total change. However, if we use our desired outcome to light the path we want to follow, more people, groups and communities will be able to align in the same direction and we will be able to reach the ‘destination’ more rapidly and with greater economies.

There will be change. There will be casualties from the current point of view. As we advance, we will begin to align in our objectives so that we can measure our decisions with the least detrimental outcomes and most rapid and precise movement for greater collective results.

How will we measure these results? Perhaps we can look at happiness and well-being.

Will that destination be our ultimate goal? I hope not. I hope it is only the marker to our next stop, the next turn of our ongoing cycle of evolution. I hope that as we continue to grow toward meeting that new stop, we are already creatively innovating ways in which we will reach the following destination along the way.

 

 

 

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