The world of work is changing rapidly due to technological advances like automation and artificial intelligence. Understanding where the future of work is headed has become vitally important for workers, employers, policymakers and society as a whole. There are many books that examine this topic and offer insights into what the workplace of tomorrow may look like. Here are 5 of the best and most influential books on the future of work:
- The Second Machine Age: Work, Progress, and Prosperity in a Time of Brilliant Technologies (2014) by Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee. – On Audible.
This book looks at how digital technologies are transforming the economy and workforce, enabling automation and AI to replace many jobs while also creating new types of work. The authors argue this transition will bring great prosperity but also disruptions that must be managed wisely. It provides an insightful analysis of how technology drives productivity and economic growth. Some criticize it for being too optimistic about the benefits of automation. However, it raises thought-provoking points about how society can adapt and thrive in the second machine age.
West’s book provides a balanced perspective on how robots, AI and automation will influence various industries and public policy. He examines the potential benefits of these technologies in raising productivity, improving efficiency and reducing costs. But he also considers the possible downsides like job losses and growing inequality. The book offers policy recommendations on how communities can prepare for the future of work. While more technical than Brynjolfsson and McAfee’s book, it gives comprehensive coverage of what developments are on the horizon.
Kessler focuses on the human side of automation and AI in the workplace. She reports on how non-traditional work arrangements like freelancing, contract work and gig jobs are becoming more common. By profiling individual workers, she illustrates both the opportunities and pitfalls of the gig economy. Kessler raises concerns about gig worker rights and protections but also shows how workplace automation allows some people to pursue more creative and fulfilling careers. The book provides a nuanced perspective on how robots and algorithms are already transforming people’s livelihoods.
- Human + Machine: Reimagining Work in the Age of AI (2018) by Paul Daugherty and H. James Wilson. – On Audible.
This work looks at how humans and machines can collaborate effectively in the workplace. It proposes a new management framework for understanding AI’s capabilities and integrating it into business operations. While envisioning revolutionary changes, the authors offer practical guidance for leaders on how to automate tasks without dehumanizing work. They argue that man and machine complement each other, with AI augmenting human strengths. By focusing on real-world implementation, the book provides valuable insights for companies adapting to the future of work.
- The Future of Professions: How Technology Will Transform the Work of Human Experts (2015) by Richard Susskind and Daniel Susskind.
The Susskinds analyze how increasingly capable AI systems will disrupt and alter professions that have traditionally relied on human expertise. They argue that technology will transform how knowledge workers like doctors, lawyers and teachers go about their work. The book anticipates which tasks will be automated and how human roles may shift more into coaching, mentoring and designing systems. While arguably too pessimistic about automation’s impact on jobs, it makes compelling arguments for how professions must reinvent themselves to remain relevant in the AI era.
In reviewing the landscape of books on the future of work, certain key themes emerge. Automation and AI will bring tremendous changes and likely disruptions to the workplace. But ultimately technology will augment human capabilities rather than make human workers obsolete. Adapting policies, managing transitions and designing collaborative human-AI systems will allow societies to capture the benefits of smarter machines while keeping work meaningful. Workers of tomorrow will need to be creative and flexible to thrive in an environment where machines take over routine tasks. Continual learning and developing more social and emotional intelligence will be crucial human skills. Those who can complement the strengths of AI have the opportunity to achieve more career satisfaction and reach new levels of productivity.
While anxiety about the future is understandable, the wise course is not to try and turn back the clock on technological progress. Instead we must proactively plan for how robots and AI can improve lives while minimizing negative impacts on workers. This collection of recent books illuminates the likely trends in the future of work and thoughtful ways to respond. By spurring more informed discussions about workplace automation today, society will be better positioned to adapt and succeed in navigating the second machine age.