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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
“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,”
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