A Deep Dive into the Future of Work

It sometimes seems like we get a new study on the future of work every day, so I don’t get too excited when I see reports of new look at how artificial intelligence (AI) and other technologies may impact our current and future workforce.  However, I will make an exception for the latest reports out of MIT’s Future of Work initiative.  Last month, the MIT project team released a host of excellent reports, including a final summary study, and deep dives into future trends in key sectors like manufacturing, robotics, and health care.  https://workofthefuture.mit.edu/research-type/working-papers/. 

Across the board, this work is excellent and well worth reading.  The final summary report  takes a comprehensive look at our labor market institutions and, not surprisingly, finds that they are ill-equipped for current and future challenges.   AI is going to produce some job loss, but it’s also creating tremendous new opportunities as well.  Yet, we have very limited capabilities to prepare workers—especially lower income workers—to compete in these new markets.  We need new approaches and a wholesale rethinking of how we train and upskill our workforce.  The report authors put it well: “The U.S. must innovate to rebalance the desire of employers for low-cost, minimal commitment, and maximal flexibility, with the necessity that workers receive fair treatment, reasonable compensation, and a measure of economic security.”  The reports conclude with lots of excellent—and doable—ideas for rethinking the future of work.  Much of this agenda can and should be embraced and adopted by the incoming Biden Administration.