I just lost my scarf in Harrods, the London department store.
Well, actually it was a snood, which, for those unfamiliar with the term, is a circular piece of fabric that one wears around the neck.
It must have slipped off my arm, either accidentally or otherwise, and, in the absence of a call from the pleasant chap in Lost Property, is gone forever.
First world problem, right?
Right. So, why the lingering mild emotions of annoyance and loss?
The annoyance almost certainly stems from the fact that carelessness like this just doesn’t happen to me. With every year that passes, I become more ordered and organized. I know where my stuff is. If I didn’t, it would slow me down.
I suspect you’re the same?
Most of us identify time as being our most precious resource and have taken up the challenge to see just how much we can do, see and achieve. We lead full lives and productivity and efficiency are key, enhanced by the systems, technology and services we choose to adopt.
It was a warm, attractive snood. Is it replaceable? Indirectly, probably. Was it expensive? No, and certainly not in comparison to Harrods’ wares. So why the long face? I put it down to 1970s values. You work and save hard for what you have and hence those – albeit material – items have a certain value to you.
These thoughts, about how we work hard for what we have, led me to recall the most interesting and disruptive lecture I’ve had the privilege of hearing this year.
Of the many thought provoking threads, the one that stood out related to how increasing automation will transform the way we live and work.
In itself, this topic is hardly groundbreaking. All of us, irrespective of age, can name new, transformative labor saving technologies or automations that have been impactful during our lifetimes.
However, Mason is not forseeing technological progress in a linear fashion, but on a scale that would see widespread automation of both blue and white collar jobs. He suggests that a third industrial revolution is nigh but may stall due to the fear of creating mass unemployment and the associated ‘psychological aimlessness’.
As I write, news hits that Japanese Insurance Company Fukoku Mutual is making 34 redundancies and replacing those staff members with IBM’s Watson.
An Oxford Martin School Study suggests that 47% of US jobs are at risk to automation by 2035.
Mason and others assert that we should de-link work and wages. Everyone would be paid a universal basic income by the State and the average working day would be cut.
It was there that it hit me. As I imagine it must feel to a weathered workhorse on the precipice of retirement, NOT working, or certainly not anywhere near the extent we are used to in the early 21st century, seems really, really scary.
In that moment, I suddenly felt sympathy for the Luddites. It had been easy to malign them from the comfortable hindsight of my history class; King Canute-like as they attempted to stem the tide of industrial progress.
Contemplating change of this magnitude is mind blowing. How will we define ourselves? How will our values change? How messy could this transition be? And many, many other questions.
However, on reflection, perhaps we shouldn’t be afraid to take a leap into this unknown. Particularly if it transpires we have some ability to design it and one of the key outcomes will be more personal time.
As a wise ex-colleague used to say, we all need to take the time to stop and smell the flowers.
Mason outlines one potential future society. There are indisputably others. None of us have an infallible crystal ball, but societal change is as certain as taxes.
It’ll be life Jim, but not as we know it!
Oh, and if you come across a homeless, burgundy fake fur snood, please let me know…
Jane Dickinson is a Senior Manager in CompTIA’s Western European team. She works with schools, colleges and universities to help them offer internationally recognized IT industry certifications alongside their programs to enhance learner employability.