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Futurists envision what the future could be like — that is, they imagine the impossible and begin to make it true today. The goal is to see into the future and try to understand it. The world is currently changing at an unprecedented rate. Things like ageing populations, artificial intelligence and climate change are creating dramatic societal changes. What will tomorrow's jobs look like, if jobs will even exist in the future?
Sohail Inayatullah is a Pakistani-born Australian academic, UNESCO Chair in Futures Studies and since 2000, a professor at the Graduate Institute of Futures Studies at Tamkang University in Taipei, Taiwan. The 62-year-old researcher has lived in Pakistan, the United States, Switzerland, Malaysia, and Australia. Despite the differences between his places of residence, he noticed a unifying factor in all of them: in each country there was a hierarchy in which one group was in a weaker position than the others, seen as inferior.
“I realised the world needs to change, asking myself, how does one go about doing that? In high school, I read a lot of science fiction describing different futures, new worlds, and impossibilities. Futures Studies provides a chance to be involved in shaping tomorrow, and our goal is to see the emerging and far away future and try to understand it,” says Inayatullah.
According to Inayatullah, change always starts with an idea. Then others must be convinced of its usefulness, and eventually it gets implemented. For instance, artificial intelligence once seemed like an impossible and far-fetched idea, but today it is nevertheless part of our reality. According to Inayatullah, making it possible is the most important part of imagining a better future.
“Will we continue to go down the industrial model of work with one lifetime job, or whether we are more likely to have many jobs in our lifetime. And do we have many jobs at the same time – the portfolio career - or can we already imagine a post-job world,” Inayatullah ponders. He is already working with a number of nations working on the transition from GDP to well-being, moving from the industrial era to a world of the quadruple bottom line: prosperity, planet, people, and purpose.
Inayatullah considers the future of work through four different scenarios. In the first scenario, we teach and learn the skills needed for yesterday’s jobs. This is the used future, living in the past even as we pretend to be futures-ready.
In Scenario two, small, structural changes are included in teaching and learning. Only minor changes are possible as educational systems are highly conservative, making them difficult to change. In such cases, structural changes may include incorporating coding or foreign languages into the curriculum. Scenarios one and two are already part of our reality: we teach things that have already been found useful in the past and supplement this teaching as needed.
The third scenario examines the future through megatrends: it includes teaching and learning skills required for tomorrow’s jobs, such as considering artificial intelligence, ageing, the rise of Asia, or climate change; jobs that solve the great challenges humanity faces. This, too, already corresponds at least in part to our reality here in Finland. The fourth scenario considers the future beyond traditional jobs.
“What does the post-job world look like? Will capitalism end? Are we moving towards a world made of platforms for collaboration? Will we co-evolve with nature and technology, conscious evolution. The main goal is to make the nature of work more flexible and at the same time help organisations such as schools or administrations re-evaluate how the workforce is seen and how ready they are to learn, teach and innovate — how ready they are to create the impossible today,” Inayatullah concludes.
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