The workplace of 2100

31 July 2018

Interview with

Liselotte Lyngsø, Future Navigator

The way we work has evolved dramatically in the last 80 years - we’ve gone from mainly manual jobs to almost all of us being desk bound tapping away at computers. So what will the future bring, more of the same or will robots have stolen all of the jobs. Georgia Mills spoke with Liselotte Lyngsø, futurist and founding partner at Future Navigator to learn more about what work will look like in the year 2100.

Liselotte - First of all I think the office notion and the notion of paying people per hour is very much from the industrial society’s logic and I think we’re going to completely depart from that. I think we will look into a future where we will be very human centered because machines will be extremely good at being machines at that point in time, so we will have to be very good at being humans. I think we’ll look back and think oh, back in 2018 people were so primitive back then pushing people like they were lemons you know. They had stress, they had depressions, they had loneliness. I’m so happy that now we’re in the 21st hundred, can actually get something better out of people.

We understand how people work. We understand the people shouldn’t be working on their own, they should be working in teams, so I think we will go from head hunting to team hunting. You will also not have the retirement as you have it today. You will go from retirement to having breaks where you retrain, where you re-organise yourself. We probably won’t have one education in the beginning of life, we will have micro learning, adaptive learning as we go along. So we all the time get feedback for okay, now Liselotte has forgotten everything and she needs to catch up on this, that, or the other.

Georgia - It’s looking like as machines get better more and more people will lose their jobs, so what kinds of things will we be doing 80 years from now?

Liselotte - I’m actually not so worried about having this jobless society. All indicators show that the more we put technology into these different areas, the more busy we get ourselves. So, for instance, within healthcare you now monitorise the elderly people and they know exactly when they need water, when they need exercise, and all it has created is this hydra’s head with even more jobs for the healthcare providers. And we will be around 10 billion people so there’s going to be plenty of stuff to do, it’s just going to be different tasks than we’re used to.

If you look out of the window right now we have refugee crisis, we have environmental crisis, we have so many people who need a better quality of life, we don’t have enough water. There are so many jobs out there, so I think it’s so sad to look at these young people who are scared of entering the labour market because they hear that robots are coming and they won’t be needed. You know, they are needed like never before but it’s a different kind of perspective. New jobs are going to be created.

Looking at ourselves as machines - that’s a big mistake. We really have to find out about human nature. You probably know that empathy is going to be more important because it’s a little difficult for machines to have this empathic muscle. Something that we are talking less about is actually the ability to be irritated. People can get very very irritated and there you actually have the key to clever innovation. Likewise, people can get lazy, and that’s also a very good sentiment if you want to create a better planet because it’s asking yourself what do I not want to do any longer or could I do this in a smarter way? Machines are not feeling lazy, so I think we have to, in a sense, tease out these very human capabilities and really find out how to tease out our individual potentials in this future.

Georgia - I like the idea of laziness and irritability being like our defining human characteristics that separate us from machines. Will commuting still be a thing - will we still go to offices?

Liselotte - Already now we are skin hungry like never before, so I think we will actually need to meet, and we need to meet in order to touch, in order to taste, in order to have the informality of meetings. But I think it doesn’t make sense to say well, that’s in real life, or in virtual life a hundred years from now because you can already now make holograms that you can actually touch, so I think you can replace quite a few of these things.

I have to go into a few of the technologies that will be there. For instance, by that time we can do mind reading, so I can read your mind. It’s already happening now that you can recognise the brainwaves, and you can have implants of memory. We had to already now think about how much do we want to alter the human nature. It’s not technology and humankind, it’s really technology melding together with humans so we’ll be having these super-capacities in ourselves. And the big challenge is going to be balance that so we’ll have happy lives together.

Georgia - What other technologies do you think might be making work life different in the future?

Liselotte - Well, the memory chip that I talked about is actually putting a mouse in front of a maze and then it takes it three weeks to get into the cheese in the centre. And then placing a mouse in front of a maze that has never seen the maze before, taking out the chip you had in the other mouse’s head, transplanting it into the other mouse. Then the mouse is actually catching the cheese in the first go like it has been in the maze before. They’re doing this right now for people with dementia, so when you have become 60 you can have a kind of brain update so you’re sure you haven’t forgotten anything.

Georgia - This is like the Matrix. It’s like when Keanu Reeves gets kung fu downloaded into his mind.

Liselotte - It is a little bit. But it works on mice now so why not on people. I actually think we’ll have different workplaces. Workplaces where you do a lot to augment people and where they might lose out on all privacy, and then you have other workplaces where they are guarding the privacy and they are fencing you in and securing your privacy.

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