Future of work?

I’m trying to compile non-draconian visions of “the future of work.” I’m interested in both fiction and non-fiction – anything that rethinks the way people in large organizations get their work done. Examples:

Islands in the Net by Bruce Sterling, and his vision of a large multinational co-op.
Hacking Business Models
Get Back in the Box by Douglas Rushkoff. Not sure about this one, haven’t read it yet.

I’m particularly interested in:
-Anything that deals with larger scale organizations (it’s relatively easy to have an “alternative” work organization in a group of 10, much harder as it scales up to 50, 150, 5,000, etc)
-Anything that deals with non-knowledge work – manufacturing, restaurants, etc.

What I’m not interested:

-Orwellian visions of work (ie, Snow Crash)
-Regressive visions of work (returns to small tribal systems – ie, primitivist visions, Bolo’Bolo, etc.)
-Anything that deals only with establishing worker owned co-ops without any other rethinking.

11 Comments

  1. Would Richard Florida’s work fall under this heading? It’s largely bullocks, but it presents a pretty narrative.

  2. I’m not sure – most of what I know about his work comes from his short essays and interviews with him. But it seems like his main concerns are geographic location and perks.

  3. Bill Whitcomb

    July 9, 2009 at 9:18 pm

    Thanks for the pointer to bolo’bolo. Interesting even if not practical. I’m interested in worker-owned companies, but have wondered if it might be possible to mix tribe and company concepts with Japanese style umbrella conglomerate to produce company as clan. Maybe this just seems possible because I haven’t tried it, being hampered by the fact that I don’t know how to start a company (of any sort) that does something economically viable, but it seems like the whole “work and non-work blurring” thing that everyone’s talking about could drift in that direction (when your clan is your company, you’re always at work or never at work depending on how you look at it). Of course, maybe the sort of commitment involved with this type of structure goes against the trend towards career and/or physical mobility. Still, it seems like one approach to addressing the essential disconnect between corporations and the welfare of employees. (Hmm. “non-knowledge work” You mean, like actually making physical objects? I’ve heard of that.)

  4. The Diamond Age.
    The Communist Manifesto.
    Life in a Technocracy.
    Technocracy Study Course. [I can loan you this]

  5. Bill Whitcomb

    July 9, 2009 at 10:41 pm

    http://www.archive.org/details/TechnocracyStudyCourseUnabridged

    I got excited when I saw this, but the first line of the description sort of says it all (“1945 edition”). Technocracy has some neat ideas if someone could just make it make sense for an information economy and come up with a transition plan (that is, something besides “this would work if all North America started doing it”).

    I’m a big phile phan (ala Diamond Age), in that I think philes as described are something like I’m getting at with clan-companies. It sort of ties into my conception of multi-nationals as mutant governments that have figured out how to live without territory and borders.

  6. http://www3.interscience.wiley.com/journal/104548066/abstract?CRETRY=1&SRETRY=0

    This article, “Cyberhumanity: The blurring boundaries between people and technology,” published in Employment Relations Today, is six years old now but it deals with, among other things, the role of augmented reality in the workplace. Because augmented reality is just beginning to come into it’s own this year (e.g., http://layar.eu/), it seems like a subject well worth considering. Companies are increasingly managing not just people and technologies but rather the intersections between them, something that could be termed cyberhuman resources.

  7. Tim Ferriss’ 4-hour Work Week
    Brunner’s Shockwave Rider (and presumably also the Toffler books that inspired it)

  8. Bill Whitcomb

    July 10, 2009 at 1:32 pm

    It’s also possible that we will have some (hopefully)evolved form of backyard industry in our future, where everybody cobbles together small scale agriculture (backyard chickens) and industry (backyard kilns, furnaces, etc.). http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Backyard_furnace

    Micro industry powered by Craigslist?

  9. Maybe relevant…

    The Coming Corporate State by A. Raven Thomson
    wikipedia.org/wiki/Economics_of_fascism
    wikipedia.org/wiki/Corporatism
    wikipedia.org/wiki/Taylorism

    … maybe not. Excellent find Bill W. re: Technocracy book. Can’t believe it’s really public domain. Technocracy Inc. is very, very clear that no transition period is allowed. All or nothing!

  10. Marshall McLuhan’s “The End of the Work Ethic” from 72.

    Can’t find an online copy yet but I recently read it in Understanding Me.

  11. Rainbow’s End – Verner Vinge

    interesting narrative on globe spanning collaborative projects and the importance of networking in the information age.

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