Thanks to a proliferation of new technologies – big data, social media, the rise and rise of artificial and machine intelligence – the world of work seems to be changing too fast for us to keep up with. Should we be worried? This is the driving question behind The Wealth Of Humans, a new book from Mr Ryan Avent, senior editor and columnist at The Economist. And, let’s not beat around the bush, the answer is: yes, we should be. In fact, the early effects are all around us, reflected in a world that seems, both politically and economically, rather unstable.
“I think the digital revolution will be as transformative to the way we live and work as the industrial revolution was,” says Mr Avent. “The transformation will be a long one, but it has begun in earnest over the last couple of decades. That, to me, helps account for a lot of the economic and political oddities we now face, from rising inequality and sagging wage growth, to political dysfunction and a backlash against elites and elite institutions.”
In the book, Mr Avent backs up such thinking by taking a deep look into the problems and opportunities currently affecting the world of work, from the global labour glut and how it might be managed, to the the factors affecting growth in emerging economies. With the benefit of Mr Avent’s expertise, and extensive research on economies around the world, it becomes clear that, though a digital revolution is inevitable, it’s not at all certain how society will adapt to it, particularly because so many of the issues tied up with work in the modern age – education, immigration, housing, globalization – are influenced by the slow-to-change values of political parties, and also, unfortunately, because elite communities have a habit of restricting access to themselves.