The future of unemployment sounds like a grand concept, but is one we need to imagine. And if we are to discuss the future of unemployment we need to start by understanding a society based on employment.

Firstly, we must recognise employment is clearly a proxy for value creation, employment is largely a function of centralised economies – where value creation can be centrally planned, predicted and leveraged. In a complex, emergent and interdependent world this thesis of value creation for humans is being unwound. That which can be predicted and understood centrally can and should be automated by ever improving machine learning. We increasingly live in a future where human value creation is being radically decentralised – service & logistics jobs creation, which have been a mainstay of the economy, are at the point of being dismantled through a combination of disintermediation and automation. Robots may now be able to build cars now but how does our economy change when they can complete tasks formerly completed by trained professions. What does it do to our society when accountants, lawyers and architects can be replaced, at least in part by AI?

This society, our society, is one in which currently, value creation and it’s design and development are centralised, regardless of whether your political view favours capital or government being this central forces. The reasons for this are too numerous to discuss here – be it the capital efficiencies of economies or the historic efficiency of centralised bureaucracy. In this society the concentration of capital, resources and network access places a responsibility on the 1% for creation of employment opportunities. In turn it creates an obligation on the rest of the population and state to meet these job opportunities with skills, capabilities and welfare. The role of government falls in maintaining an overarching responsibility for supply and demand management of labour to meet the demands of the economy this society shapes.

This model has created a population dependent on the labour economy with low levels of personal savings, or independent access to essential resources (food, land, water etc) all in the name of driving consumer demand (and thereby more employment).

Now we have to imagine a new force arriving into this mix, a combination of automation, zero overhead technology (e.g platform orgs), and the democratisation of network power which together are starting to fundamentally disrupt our 100 year post agricultural pact in developed economies. Challenging a model based primarily on the centralised capacity of value creation and provision of employment.

In this future the centralised 19th century state is struggling to predict trends and prepare citizens for a new decentralised, distributed and democratised model of value creation.

We see a deluge of future skills research papers being released. Each one creates a new version of the state in panic mode trying to pick skills and jobs winners of the future whilst attempt to re-gear it’s institutional stack to accommodate this future. Trying to desperately preserve its symbiotic monopoly of centralisation – centralised state and centralised corporations. We see state desperately grow massively public debt in the name of infrastructure investment and business catalyst programmes. Preserving this old social compact in the hope the past will some how make a roaring return, 10 years on and we are still waiting for this return – wages falling – productivity growing – the social fabric untangling at the seams.

Surely this one last single statement – clearly states the problem – we are massively locked into fundamentally mis deploying the human capital of citizens – into a declining value creation cycle. We need a new value creation stack – which fundamentally reimagines humans as the centre of value creation and this needs to be all humans.

The role of the state should not be to provide fodder for the centralised corporate engine, but to massively unlock value creation by all humans. This requires a fundamentally new institutional stack that looks at how we account for public spending, moving beyond welfare as cost or welfare as investment. We must reimagine higher education as a lifelong guild, and understand that universal basic income is about the redistribution of welfare to an investment in the democratisation of innovation and contribution. We need to move from schools being de facto skills distribution machines to human development gardens, which sees saving and local resilience not as untapped consumption, but the foundations for independent innovation.

This a future which sees growth and value creation to be fundamentally democratic, distributed and and decentralised.

This is a future which needs a new model of state and a new shared language for all to create and prosper in this future.

To explore this topic further, join us on Thursday 30th March to learn more about the Beyond (un)employment programme and how you can be part of it. Join in by signing up for free via eventbrite here.

Indy Johar

Indy Johar