172545615-1.jpgI read a lot. In my personal life, I wake up early to walk down to a local Starbucks to get a cup o' joe and a New York Times. (I eschew subscribing to the NYT digital edition for my Kindle only because not doing so forces me get up early, take a walk, engage in life, watch people walk their dogs, say hello to the retired man who is always sitting on his porch near my apartment house, and feed my reading habit. Recently, I read a fascinating story about gigantic wind generators off the coast of Rhode Island. But enough about my personal reading habits. Since I am at work, I should talk about those reading habits as well, right?

 

I read a lot at work. I read a lot of documentation because I write product video scripts in addition to my other duties on element14's content team. I rather enjoy it and I don't find it particularly hard reading -- nothing like when I was in U.S. Naval Nuclear Power School and, subsequently, spent 12 hours a day reading plant manuals. (Again, another story for another day.)

 

A few minutes ago, I happened to read a white paper called The Future of Work by Marco Annunziata, GE Chief Economist and Stephan Biller, EE Chief Manufacturing Scientist. While the paper is based upon research they are conducting, the paper has an opinion that boils down to: the future of work will have a "powerful, deep and far-reaching transformation" in not only our work lives but also as human beings. The substance of the article delineates their views about the Industrial Internet and Advanced Manufacturing, but I think that the paper transcends "thought leadership" (as my boss kellyhenson would term it). Here are a few insightful points I have clipped from it that I'd like to share with you about The Future of Work:

 

1. A powerful, deep and far-reaching transformation is underway in industry. It is fundamentally changing the way we design and manufacture products, and what these products can do. It is empowering human beings to unleash more broad-based and distributed creativity and entrepreneurship. It is redefining the competitive landscape in multiple sectors, with far-reaching implications that will reverberate through international trade patterns and the distribution of global growth.

 

(R.S.: Now that sounds too good to be true. Keep on reading.)

 

2. Machines like gas turbines, jet engines, locomotives and medical devices are becoming predictive, reactive and social, making them better able to communicate seamlessly with each other and with us. The information they generate becomes intelligent, reaching us automatically and instantaneously when we need it and allowing us to fix things before they break. This eliminates downtime, improves the productivity of individual machines—as jet engines consume less fuel and wind turbines produce cheaper power—and raises the efficiency of entire systems, reducing delays in hospitals and in air traffic.

 

(R.S.: Okay, that sounds interesting to me. How about you?)

 

3. New production techniques like additive manufacturing, or 3D printing, allow us to create completely new parts and products with new properties. They also give us more flexibility to produce prototypes faster and at lower cost. Engineers can “print” one part, test it and, based on the test feedback, quickly adjust the digital design and reprint an improved version of the part—all using the same additive manufacturing machine. This accelerates the cycle of design, prototyping and production. Adjustments to the production process, as well as to supply chain and distribution logistics, can be calculated and enacted in real time.

 

(R.S.: Sounds like an element14 community member? Hmm. One more clip.)

 

4. Technological progress, notably in High-Performance Computing, robotics and artificial intelligence, is extending the range of tasks that machines can perform better than humans can. This may have painful short-term costs as some jobs are displaced and some skills made obsolete. But it dramatically augments the power and economic value of the areas where humans excel: creativity, entrepreneurship and interpersonal abilities.

 

(R.S.: The last one stopped me in my tracks. A moment of syncronicity occurred me - my Newtonian apple (or not), so to speak. Earlier this week, community member Instructorman commented on my article, Making Industry 4.0 Happen Now, with the following:

 

"With all the glowing predictions about a hyper-connected, ultra efficient world of automated manufacturing comes the imperative to ethically respond to the impact these unstoppable changes will have on people - the people [who] are currently employed in pre-Industry 4.0 factories and plants ..."

 

I gave Instructorman with a perfunctory answer: more training and re-training will be needed. But I really don't know what The Future of Work will be. I surely hope we as a civilization do not sink into a dystopian world (e.g. The Matrix) where technology disrupts rather than empowers for the good of all.

 

The Future of Work has made me reflective on this work day, and as the Labor Day weekend commences. What do you think?