We are supposed to be living in the age of the knowledge economy, but it still surprises me how we hold on to outdated views of what is valuable. Politicians amongst others place great value on trading in manufactured goods. They talk about bringing back jobs to industrial areas that have become wastelands as factories have closed. But many of these jobs have been taken over by robots anyway so even if the factories returned, the jobs assembling products wouldn’t.
As routine jobs are taken over by technology, the work left for humans should be using skills and abilities not easily replicated in software or carried out by machines. Creativity, imagination and interpersonal skills are still of value in the knowledge economy and jobs needing these skills should be more satisfying for the people doing them. Take the routine boring parts away from todays work and it should leave the more engaging and rewarding parts.
We have heard a lot about AI recently and its potential impact on jobs. It is also likely to become a key focus for governments in the future. A recent article in Scientific American pointed out the strategic importance of AI in the geopolitics of the superpowers. It suggests that we shout have an AI equivalent of the World Trade Organisation to establish the international rules, ethics and standards for AI. This illustrates the move from manufactured goods and tangible trade to the trade in intangible products and services.
This week is “K for Knowledge” week in the WiseWork alphabet. As we move to a gig economy where work is performed by individuals adding value instead of people working for corporate employers, knowledge becomes a critical part of the mix. We have to be better at recognising the value of knowledge for its own sake instead of just valuing the physical products that result from it. We have evolved from an age of manual work to one where we use our brains to perform meaningful and satisfying work. Our views of the value of knowledge need to keep up.