We work because we are humans. Looking back at humanity’s history, the evolution of our modes of subsistence shows how central the modes of production and the organisation of human labor are in providing for our material needs.
Humans work in order to give meaning to their lives. We work in order to consciously, intentionally shape our surroundings. We work as a socially organised way to expand.
We work in order to create value.
The recent developments of Artificial Intelligence (AI)—and the theoretical perspective of AGI—are triggering us to wonder what the future of work will be. AI will have the power to do creative labor, something that was exclusive to humans so far. They will have the technical ability to replace humans for many of the common tasks that we call our jobs. Whether they can do better is the wrong question to ask; they will be cheaper, and economic incentives know better.
How will we provide for our material needs? What will work look like? Is—I believe—a better question. In fact, it raises multiple other, deeper questions: Why do we work? What is value? How might we redesign our economic system so that we can maximise happiness for the most?
Here’s my prediction: I believe the future of work will be open, collaborative, and decentralised.
I will make this a topic for another, future post, but—in short—talking about value creation is absurd. This is especially true when considering its measurement in dollars.
Value is theoretical, highly-subjective, latent, speculative and immeasurable. However, value can be traded, actioned, and amplified.
- Actioning: turning a latent valuable into an exchangeable valuable.
- Trading: exchanging a valuable for another valuable, at an exchange value.
- Amplifying: combining valuables into a sum bigger than its parts.
Often, discussions about value creation mix these three methodologies. If we are talking about it in the context of entrepreneurship, it will often be orderly amplifying, actioning, and last trading.
Trading is the outcome. Economic value creation, measured as financial value creation, is currently focused on the tradable nature of value. Without a trade, value seems worthless from the perspective of our economic system. Looking at the global economy: the more and the faster the trades, the higher the value (often measured as GDP). The more value is being created. This has the unfortunate corollary that pure financial trades can make it look like value was created, misleading us.
In my last Common Tragedies post, I showed how this focus on the trading aspect leads to the destruction of common resources and does not incentivise selfless amplification. Essentially, this is because we can’t freely trade Commons (who would be the seller?) and that their amplified nature isn’t financially represented. Concretely: a forest is more than a sum of trees, or an open source project is more than the sum of intellectual property contributions.
The future of work will be open. Closed-source innovation has led to greedy tech monopolies (and worse, investors’ contradictory expectations for founders to build monopolies), enshittified platform products, and new feudalised markets.
We will have to embrace open knowledge in order to free innovation and drive progress forward. One way or another, this will eventually happen. History is cyclic and open innovation is the way forward. We deserve better knowledge, products, and services.
The future of work will be decentralised. Just as centralisation comes with closeness, openness brings decentralisation. Open innovation and the abstraction of our jobs will lead to a lot more solo-preneurs delivering specialised, personalised services to other humans.
Distributed, decentralised trading won’t be limited to money anymore. Time, influence, and money are equally valuable investment currencies, and crypto-currencies allow us to model that. We will soon freely exchange one for the other without looking back at our old financial system.
The future of work will be collaborative. As knowledge isn’t scarce anymore, curated knowledge will be. But curated doesn’t mean much in a vacuum or outside of the human eye. Curated only means something because we are alive, conscious, social beasts. Curated results from identity.
Communities will become the common unit. Communities forge identity and amplify value. Hoping that we won’t defer our identity curation to AI, I believe that communities will become the source of value. The borders between work, life, and side projects will get blurred.
Action, trade, amplify
We will action value with open innovation, trade it with decentralised investment, and amplify it with communities. That’s how I envision the future of work and value creation.
And you, what do you think the future of work will look like?