The Future of Work

Scott Francis
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In a recent BPM.com discussion the question was asked “Will All Workers Be Knowledge Workers in the Future?”

It sparked a good discussion, as expected.

My take is that an economy that just consists of automated bots negotiating with each other isn’t that interesting. It is people that makes business interesting.

It isn’t as if “knowledge” work is the only kind that would survive. Any work that involves craftsmanship or skill will have life. People have way too much faith in AI in my view, and not nearly enough faith in the human condition. If the world will be given over to bots and automation, why worry about customer experience!?

Several comments got my attention, including Dave Duggal’s comment: “Our industry has a responsibility to understand how we are baking people out of process. We should probably not exclude ourselves from that set and consider how tech improves human condition, not supplants it.”

And Scott Menter’s comment: “A rather dystopian thought. I certainly hope humanity doesn’t forget how to use its hands to build and repair the physical world.”

I share Emiel Kelly’s thought on this: “For repairing a car you probably need more knowledge then selling insurances or implementing BPM systems, so I really don’t like the distinction between knowledge worker and ‘the rest of the losers’.”  The overtones of haves and have-nots are always there when people talk about automation and knowledge work. It is always someone else’s work that is menial, and my work that is valuable intellectual knowledge work.

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Later, re-reading the post, I found myself sitting at a conference room table made from reclaimed bowling alley lanes by a local craftsman… automation can’t make this table.  Even the sanding machine couldn’t be used because of nails in the old alley flooring.  The process of building that table is as valuable to me as the table itself.f  As long as humans are the buyers, they’ll want things that only humans can make, or things that require human touch, at the least.  Skill, Craft, Knowledge and Art hopefully won’t go out of style!