1. It’s work, but not as we know it


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It’s work, but not as we know it

man working on bus

Every era has historically had a main area of work or value-creating activity. Most of us think about employment and occupations as something that emerged with industrial society. During the era of “hunting and gathering,” the family, group and community were engaged in all things required in order to survive and have a decent life. These activities involved hunting, gathering food, making fire, creating clothing and so on.

As we started to cultivate the soil and grow crops, the first settlements emerged. For thousands of years, work for most of the Earth’s population involved farming-related activities associated with the season, the sun and the weather. It was hard to differentiate between what was work and what wasn’t because working hours did not exist. During the feudalist era, farmers worked about 120-150 days a year, even if some of the days could be long during harvest time.

The industrial era shifted focus as people left the farms and fields for the factories. With the factories, a system emerged for working life that included everything from special workplaces (the factories), timetables, division of labor, working days and hours, and some free time, with vacations and retirement coming later. Over the past century, factory workers have been leaving the factories for offices and service occupations. In old industrial countries such as Germany and the UK, about 1.5 percent of the population is working with agriculture, about 20 percent in industry and about 80 percent with services.

As working life changes with the liberation of time and space, with powerful networks and computers, the automation of work and so on, some fundamental questions come in mind. Value creation has historically been closely connected to “work” – it has been the way we create value and a mechanism to distribute value. What will this be like in 20 years, when the sharp borders and divisions of labor as we know them from the industrial era have dissolved?

Written by Mikael Eriksson Björling

Mikael is an Ericsson Networked Society Evangelist and Director at the Networked Society Lab. His specialty is in understanding how new consumer behavior, emerging technologies and industry logics are shaping the future society, and he believes that we have great opportunities right now to shape a better world. Mikael joined Ericsson in 1998 and is based in Stockholm. You can follow him on Twitter at: @mikaeleb

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