GLOOM vs. BLOOM OF THE FUTURE OF WORK: Can We Chart A Positive Roadmap?

By Mario Raich, Simon Dolan, Dave Ulrich, and Claudio Cisullo

As the digital era is continuously in its process to ripen, discussions of destructive unforeseen scenarios are always on the picture especially in the aspect of work. In this article, the authors comprehensively tackle and focus on the bloom rather than the gloom that awaits modern and future society in terms of work and of life.


“Too often the focus of work has changed from life sustaining purpose to transaction paid activities, which means that work has lost its meaningfulness.” 

There are thousands of articles and books about the future of work. The vast majority describes doom and gloom scenarios. It is very easy to join the crowd and elaborate on this negative and catastrophic landscape. Here are some typical examples that make the news:

• A large portion of today’s jobs will disappear in the digital world. According to Oxford university economists Carl Frey and Michael Osborne, 40% of all jobs are at risk of being lost to computers in the next two decades.1
• Others, predict that not only 75% of jobs will be lost due to automation, but the developing world may also see swaths of companies leaving their shores and returning to developed nations, as labour will be less of a factor for industry.2
• Futurist Thomas Frey, asserts that two billion jobs will disappear in the next 15 years.3
• Above is becoming even more catastrophic due to the fact that one or two billion people will enter the market seeking new jobs; and to make matters even more challenging, this will happen at a time when global market reach is creating tremendous global competition.
• In order to sweeten a bit the total gloom, Frey claims that 60 percent of the jobs that will exist ten years from now have not yet been conceived.4
• Gallup reports that 87% of employees worldwide are not engaged at work.5

These predictions suggest the demise of the number of jobs and raise the question: “Will we have a job in the future?” More important are the questions:, “If we are lucky to have a job will it be interesting?” and “Will it be meaningful?” Beyond having a job, the more puzzling question has to do with the role and meaning of work. Here are some points to consider:

• Too often work has morphed from a life-sustaining purpose to a transaction paid activity. With an economy focussed mainly on profit generation; for many people work has lost its meaningfulness.6
• Today we are experiencing high level of unemployment juxtaposed with enormous wealth creation, resulting in an increasing wealth polarisation.
• The developing countries are experiencing a rapidly growing middle class, while the highly developed countries see theirs shrinking.

This paper shows that perhaps we can use the same drivers of future transformation with some creativity and imagination in order to detect opportunities and perhaps aspire for a more positive future of work. We realise that by selecting this focus, the paper might have less “scoops” and perhaps be less convincing to the readers. However, this is the challenge; to think out of the box and avoid delving into the gloom by focussing on the bloom. The rhymes works well for us hence the Oxford Dictionary defines Gloom as: “the state of depression or despondency”, while the same dictionary defines Bloom as “the state or period of greatest beauty, freshness, and vigor”.


What are the Principal Drivers of Transformation that will Affect the Future of Work in the Cyber-Age?

We are living in a world dominated by three powerful converging megatrends: globalisation, digitalisation and creation. Those will force companies to change the way they lead, manage and operate their business including their supply chains. Taking advantage of these changes will lead to great success. Continuing with current practice will result in revenue loss and cost increases.

Five global forces are shaping the latter: social changes, technological changes, global connectivity, environmental changes, and asymmetric conflicts. In addition, we have several global key issues such as changing demographics, shift from spiritual towards materialistic values, fast progressing environmental degradation, fast advancing artificial intelligence and vanishing jobs.7

In the context of the digital supply chain it is important to understand that many activities will and have to be automated but still will not be fully replaced by machines.

The Cyber-Age creates huge challenges and opportunities for humanity. It calls for a transformation of business and society, enabling them to harness the power of digital technologies. We have a unique historical opportunity to reinvent human society and the way of life by leveraging the achievements of the Cyber-Age. We can leverage the mighty driver of “creation” to get a constructive impact on education, culture, business and, finally, society. We can bring back meaningfulness into politics, the economy and of course to the world of work.

Especially based on the three converging megatrends mentioned before, new sources of data will always emerge. New types of analytics will always be developed. And new software, new robotics and new customer demands will come to the fore. Most companies today fail to maximise the opportunities presented by the data, systems and people. As we all know, organisational change is mainly derived from people’s willingness and capability to move to the future. This is certainly true for the journey to a digital supply chain, which will require education, communication, organisational redesign, process redesign and bringing in new personnel. Therefore as well in the context of the digital supply chain it is important to understand that many activities will and have to be automated but still will not be fully replaced by machines. In fact, what has to happen, is a cultural change. The ways that people are operating will change and collaboration between different groups e.g. engineering and production, across geographies and head office, line managers and SME will become paramount.

You open any newspaper, almost in any country and region in the world, and to your dismay, you notice a rare mix of destructive forces in action that is leading towards destructive transformation. These includes greed, fear and hatred. Greed varies in its origin; there are many cases of greed for power, for money, for dominance, which at the end leads to corruption and abuse of power. Fear of losing acquired wealth and status, is manifested in forms of racial superiority, dictatorships, and others. Finally, hatred, which is all about not respecting differences, is manifested in the form of terrorism, fanaticism, and others.

The first phase of the Cyber-Age, where we are right now, is dominated by digitalisation; the second one, which is just emerging, will be dominated by virtualisation. In all areas of our life, we are being pushed out of our comfort-zone. Today one of the most urgent issues is the fast progressing digitalisation of work. Tomorrow we will have in addition the virtualisation of work. This leads to the competition between human competencies and the intelligent machines. No doubt, all this has and will have a massive impact on the quality of our Life.

Whether we like it or not, a new world is ahead of us. The past is gone for good, a new future lies ahead. It is now perhaps, a good time to live our dream.

The Cyber-Age is also the time for creation and destruction. Unchained creativity is the driving force of change and transformation. Destruction is the dark side of creation. Often it is a necessary precondition, and sometime a consequence of creation.

Back in the 1970s, Alvin Toffler in his bestselling book “Future Shock”, talked about the death of permanence. Today, it is by far more intense and real – nothing stays unchanged! Everything, without exception is being challenged. All human activities, beliefs and paradigms are being revisited, questioned, reframed and reinvented. These changes can be disruptive and often destructive as well. The speed of change is increasing. The half life of knowledge (when 50% of what we know) is decreasing. One of our colleagues who teaches PhD students in electrical engineering finds he has to have 50% new notes every 12 months, which is an incredible half-life of knowledge. We are moving into the centre of the hurricane shaking our civilisation. Nothing can escape this Maelstrom of Change. Whether we like it or not, a new world is ahead of us. The past is gone for good, a new future lies ahead. It is now perhaps, a good time to live our dream. However, in this maze of changes it is easy to get lost. Traditional ways of understanding and explanations are getting obsolete. We have the feeling of being on a ship in the middle of a powerful never-ending hurricane, without any instruments, which would point us in the right direction. So we are trying to hang on to the past and apply old solutions to new problems – obviously it does not work.

Today the Zeitgeist is characterised by intense creation and destruction and a permanent anxiety. “The Zeitgeist Movement is a global sustainability activist movement presenting the case for the needed transition out of our current unsustainable economic model and into a new sustainable socioeconomic paradigm based on using the best that science and technology have to offer to maximise human, animal and environmental well being in accordance with the natural world.” (

Nothing stays the same forever. Digitalisation goes global. The world is going through a major transformation. This creates uncertainty and anxiety about the future. There are many different sources that operate simultaneously and reinforce this uncertainty: (Chavez in Venezuela, BREXIT, or the election of Donald Trump to the US presidency, to name a few). Others include environmental disasters (tsunamis, earthquakes, flooding, etc.), strongly increasing migration (Middle East and Africa to Europe), scarcity of water, armed conflicts, terrorism and on top the black outlook about the future of work and unemployment.

Many people are being caught in the trap of the negative hype about future of work. There is no surprise – anxiety sells! Most outlooks about the future of work are looking at the destructive side of the transformation in the workplace. In a world where machines would do nearly all work and artificial intelligent (hereafter AI) based entities, serious social problems would arise. Additionally, assuming that most people will be concentrated in large cities, it is easy to imagine the unrest and tensions that might be forthcoming. This brings to the surface the following key question: Are we entering again into a dark age of anxiety and fear? While the conventional answer is yes, indeed, in the ensuing paragraphs we would like to tackle the various challenges from a more positive and inspiring angle. The motto for the message can be summed up as following:

“The future will be history soon! If we waste it, there is no second call!”

The Cyber-Age creates huge challenges and opportunities for humanity. It calls for a transformation of business and society, enabling them to harness the power of digital technologies. We have a unique historical opportunity to reinvent human society and the way of life, by leveraging the achievements of the Cyber-Age. We can leverage the mighty driver of “creation” to get a constructive impact on education, culture, business and, finally, society. We can bring back meaningfulness into politics and economy, and last but not least into our work and life.

True, different jobs will be affected at different forms and levels. In fact, only quite a few jobs will vanish entirely; they will be transformed into hybrid work.

The unfolding fourth industrial revolution has the potential to revolutionise the speed and scope of creation. The convergence of new technological solutions will alter our life and work far beyond expectations. It will also change politics and the role of governments. Virtual Reality is adding a new dimension to it. Its impact is difficult to imagine today, but it will be very deep and way beyond anything, we are doing today!

Talking about “jobs” is a wrong starting point. Work is composed of many different tasks and activities and in next five to ten years an increasing number of those tasks and activities, considered today as “working activities”, not jobs, will be performed by intelligent machines. This does not mean always the disappearance of jobs. True, different jobs will be affected at different forms and levels. In fact, only quite a few jobs will vanish entirely; they will be transformed into hybrid work.

People and machines will act as teams. To see the benefit of people/machine interface, look at the evolution of transportation. Walking was replaced by horse driven carriages then replaced with cars then with airplanes. Each stage of person/machine transportation increased an individual’s ability to broaden and explore the world. Likewise, today’s AI will enable new visions for people/machine interface that increase not only productivity but also a view of the world, likely beyond our imagination.

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Tackling the Challenge of Creating Meaningful Work

“The problem here is not “work” but the way in which work is being remunerated. We need to terminate paying for working time and start to remunerate for meaningful activities, which also add value to society, and to own quality of life. Working time will matter less. This would alleviate the loss of paid activities to intelligent machines.”

The problem is our understanding of the concept of “work”. In principle, we consider work as activities necessary for the survival of our species and leading towards the improvement of human wellbeing. Subsistence is the first driving factor of work. Traditionally, work was/is considered to be an activity or a bundle of activities being paid for their respective execution. In the same vain, working time means the time, which is being paid by the employer. Therefore, in reality, only those activities are considered work, as they are necessary for the “production” of goods and services creating economic value for the employer, and are paid for. Most people work because they need the money for sustaining their life and the life of their family. Most work has lost its purpose and meaningfulness, making a large part of the working population unhappy and dissatisfied.8

Meaning at work comes from seven factors.9 The new ways to do work may be used to enhance these meaning levers, and make new work a bloom not gloom. Meaning comes from:

A. Identity… Who am I? New work defines a broader identity with more impact on others
B. Purpose… Where am I going? New work helps people find real purpose from work
C. Relationships… Who do I work with? New work helps people connect with others outside their immediate circle
D. Work environment… How to build a positive work environment? New work lets people work in very different work settings… we don’t go to and from work, but work comes to us
E. Challenges… What challenges interest me? New work allows employees to focus on things that matter to them
F. Learning…How can I continue to learn from work? New work with all its changes encourages a growth mindset and real learning
G. Delight… How can I have fun at work? New work might include laughing at ourselves, appreciating excellence, relishing beauty, being present in the moment, and having fun at work


Tackling the Challenge of Harnessing New Technologies

A large number of factors have impact on work. Technology is a major one, albeit not the only one that can affect change and transformation. In examining technology, it is important to consider all kind of new and emerging technologies not just those based on Information and Communication Technology (ICT) and Artificial Intelligence (AI), which currently dominate the scene. We need to examine the possibilities of Biotech, Gentech, Nanotech, Cleantech, Alternative Energy, Health Technologies, Neuroscience, Robotics, Drones, 3D printing, New Materials, Quantum Technology, Outer Space Tech, New Transportation Technologies, etc. In addition there are combinations of technologies like BING = Biotech, Infotech, Nanotech & Genetics; NBIC, an acronym for Nanotechnology, Biotechnology, Information Technology and Cognitive Science.

Here are a couple of examples showing how positive use of new technologies can add to our survival and well-being:

• Artificial Intelligence (AI), the ability of a digital computer or computer-controlled robot to perform tasks commonly associated with intelligent beings.10 Artificial intelligence is now being applied in everyday life, from academia to business, government and the military. In a recent report from Accenture, Mark Purdy and Paul Daugherty are claiming that artificial intelligence is emerging as a new factor of production that can help kick-start profitability.11
• Typical problems to which AI methods are applied: Optical Character Recognition; Handwriting Recognition; Speech Recognition; Face Recognition; Artificial Creativity; Computer Vision; Virtual Reality and Image Processing; Diagnosis (artificial intelligence); Game Theory and Strategic Planning; Game Artificial Intelligence and Computer Game Bot; Natural Language Processing,Translation and Chatterbots; and Nonlinear Control and Robotics.12
China is betting big on AI.13 China will see the greatest economic gains from artificial intelligence (AI) by 2030 as the technology accelerates global GDP growth by increasing productivity and boosting consumption.14 The rise of the QR code and how it has forever changed China’s social habits… The little barcode is driving China’s rapid shift towards a cashless society.15
• Recent advances in photonics allow precision manipulation and detection of the properties of light, resulting in dramatic improvements in the performance of existing technologies – such as remote sensing, medical diagnostics and communications – opened up completely new areas of R&D, and enabled important developments in some of the nation’s leading industries. Also in harnessing light, high amounts of energy can be precisely directed with low energy loss.16
• Harnessing “optics and photonics” is the intelligent use of the power of the nature of light. Specifically, light can be viewed in one of two ways: as a propagating of wave (radio wave) and a collection of travelling particles called photons. The latter can result in dramatic improvements of remote sensing, medical diagnostics and communications (source: harnessing Light – National Research Council, 2014).17
• The Fourth Industrial Revolution is marked by emerging technology breakthroughs in a number of fields, including robotics, artificial intelligence, nanotechnology,  quantum computing, biotechnology, The Internet of Things, 3D printing and autonomous vehicles.18 The Fourth Industrial Revolution is the age in which the barriers between man machine are beginning to dissolve.19
• Self-Driving Vehicles: Cars, Ships, Airplanes, Drones
• Cloud Computing. A cloud allows users to access application, information, and data on an online level or via mobile devices. Multi-cloud is the future of cloud computing.20
• Cyber-Physical Systems (CPS). Examples of CPS include:

◦ Smart grid, autonomous automobile systems, medical monitoring, process control systems, robotics systems, and automatic pilot avionics.21 Cyber-physical models for future manufacturing – with the motivation a cyber-physical system, a “coupled-model” approach was developed.
◦ A real-world example of such a system is the Distributed Robot Garden at MIT in which a team of robots tends a garden of tomato plants.
◦  Another example is MIT’s ongoing CarTel project where a fleet of taxis work by collecting real-time traffic information in the Boston area.22

While the technology will decompose work into discrete parts, the organisation that combines individual competency domains will be important. Research conducted by Ulrich and col. found that “organisation capability” has 4 times the impact on business performance than “individual competence”. In a new world of work, organisation will continue to matter. It would be fun to explore what the new organisation looks like to accomplish work.23


Tackling the Challenge of New Forms of Work

“Paying for ‘reproductive work’ and voluntary work is an opportunity to cope with the vanishing working activities.”

The “reproductive” work, i.e. caring for people, starting in early childhood, in their own households, are by and large not considered as work. This limiting perception has discounted other value-creating activities, such as raising children and caring for the elderly. Including and validating these as meaningful contributions could double the repertoire of human work activities. In the future, perhaps, we will attach an economic value to these types of activities. Today, they are seen as having primarily social value. However, if we will attach an economic value to unpaid meaningful activities, it will upgrade the status and the perception of many of these activities that are vital to our wellbeing, as individuals, as families, and as a society. At the same time, it would move the concepts of partnership and care even more into the mainstream of cultural and economic values, since many activities related to these topics are unpaid today, and therefore not considered as work in the economic sense.

Eisler and her colleagues at the Center for Partnership Studies are developing Social Wealth Indicators to be expressed in economic terms for this kind of unpaid work.24 These measures include the results of both government and nongovernmental studies. For example, a Swiss government survey showed that if the unpaid work performed in households – primarily the work of caring for people – was remunerated, it would constitute 40 percent of the Swiss GDP.25 More recently, an Australian study – using not only replacement value (which is low because care work is so poorly paid in the workplace), but also opportunity cost (what caregivers could earn on average if they were earning their potential in the paid economy) – placed the value of this work at an impressive 50 percent of the Australian GDP.26 Very soon we will see the first multi-hybrid models of business and work based on human labour, intelligent machines and virtual activities performed by humans supported by virtual entities. There is no way out. Thus, we need to start exploring the virtual world and get ready for it.


Tackling the Challenge of the New Roles of Governments and their Respective Policies

“The financial value created by all kinds of activities should be taxed. In particular all financial transactions creating new value.”

The essence of work as we know today evolved ever since human labour was replaced by machines in the 19th and 20th centuries; the 21st century will host the dramatic transformation when, for the first time, 50 percent of all work will be digitalised, with highly sophisticated robots, IT programs, and entities replacing both machine and human labour. Later on towards the mid of the century 50% and more of the work will be done in the virtual reality.

Many experts argue that companies will employ only a minimal number of people, as skilled robots and highly specialised artificial intelligence entities will do the vast majority of the work. Since paying the workforce is the major expense in running a business, without that cost organisations will be much more sustainable. In addition, to look further ahead, once the large investment for digital machines has been paid off, companies will reap huge profits. While this may seem to be a promising picture from a wealth production point of view, it falls apart upon examination. What about the resulting loss of work for people? Moreover, unfortunately, people have to work to afford to be consumers. At some point, even the most voracious companies must realise that in order to make a profit they need consumers who are able to pay for their products and services.


Tackling the Challenge of Reinventing a New Economic System

The principle objective of an economy is to ensure a decent life for the majority of people on our planet. This includes the creation of new products and services, improving the quality of life, and solving key problems. It also means providing meaningful activities for people willing and able to contribute to value creation for an organisation, society, and for future generations.

Thus, human work will have to be reinvented, in order to have a new meaning. We need to revise again the fundamental question: “What is work?” With the reinvention of work, we will have the opportunity to reintegrate meaning into it. In fact, we can even imagine that in the near future work may well become a privilege.

Will our traditional definition of an economy still be valid? More specifically, who, in fact, would be the consumer? We propose that current economic and social models are not sustainable in such an environment. We feel it is important to examine other models and frameworks, including radically different ones.

Hence, the term “economy” should encompass all activities leading towards the improvement of human existence, the development of our capacities, and those that will enable people to access a decent way of life. Accordingly, we propose to define “work” as all activities having an impact on the value creation in terms of economic and social values, as well as values for future generations. We should also be aware that all work has a collateral impact on the environment, society, and individuals.

In principle, any value creation is only meaningful if it has a positive impact on life quality. Hence, economy should encompass all activities leading towards improvement of human existence, development of our competencies and capacities, which enable people to have a decent way of life. The understanding of economy will need to be extended, to encompass a larger share of life-quality creating and sustaining values, way beyond the materialistic values of today. We can assume that the business paradigm will be shifting towards permanent and sustainable transformation.

“The challenge will be to create an economy, which does not rely on the consumption of items we don’t need or whose need was created artificially by shroud business; we will need a dynamic value creation to satisfy multiple stakeholders, with partially contradicting expectations. This will lead towards a redefinition or re-invention of economics that is based on more than just the old-fashioned economic values. With this new framework, a distinct work-life balance will emerge. Finally, more time can be dedicated to the development and care of partnerships, of personal development, and for the search of the meaning of life.”

Unfortunately, we know that companies focussed on profit maximisation will continue to produce everything they can sell at a profit and opt for production efficiency and low costs, even if that ultimately destroys the basis of their existence. This has been demonstrated by the outsourcing rush to Asia, Africa and some other under developed regions, exposing the thinly veiled greed for profit to be found in the capitalistic system driven by growth. This could result in a world with high production capacity but without markets capable of absorbing the production.

There are many issues to resolve here. First, where would the money come from to pay for the products and services? Would most people have to depend on government subsidies for their survival? Alternatively, would the producers provide people with the necessary money? Second, what would people do? What would be their meaningful activities? Finally, who would finance the government (i.e. pay taxes)? Why generate high profit, if most of it has to be paid to the government? The limitations of the capitalistic system become more obvious; it only works if there are enough customers with money to pay for the goods and services produced. Thus, we need to worry about securing the subsistence and meaningful activities, which provide the essence to our life.

Based on the aforementioned indicators, we argue that the current dominating economy has no future in these proposed scenarios. One this is certain, the old communist model of economics did not work, but neither the capitalistic model that exists today. There is an urgent call for a different economic model.



Charting a Roadmap for Positive Future of Work

“People are most dangerous, when they feel powerless and have nothing to lose!”

In reality, the probability that in the next 5-10 years large number of jobs will be fully replaced by intelligent machines, robots or other intelligent programs is most unlikely. Nevertheless, many activities, which we consider today as work, will be automated in nearly all jobs.27

We will see plenty of hybrid working models, where people will be working together with intelligent machines or robots. If we look at work from a macro angle, we can observe constant replacement of human labour by machines; just recently, intelligent machines are becoming increasingly autonomous. This will no doubt continue, and even at a higher speed. By the middle of the 21st century, we can expect to see human labour, as we know it today, to drop below 25%. In Figure 1, the purple line represents this. Obviously, during this period, new working activities will emerge constantly, but the latter cannot stop the trend; most of the new working activities will require new professional competencies.



It looks like digitalisation will bring a decline of activities performed today by people. In essence, it is a good thing giving more time for other activities, evidently, if the economic equation has been solved.

Therefore, the question arises, where is the potential for the future human activities considered as work. They all can serve to bridge the transition towards the virtualised world. Until the virtualisation is fully developed and operational, added human value will be by and large, created by virtual activities. We have to bear in mind that this will be a world very different from the world today with very different needs as well.

This transformation has already begun, but the full impact will be available only around the middle of our century. For many people this may look far-fetched and closer to fiction than reality. However, in fact it not further away than about one generation ahead. The dark gray line in figure 1 depicts this tendency.

Figure 1 suggests that this transformation will happen gradually with several disruptive and destructive periods in between. We argue that very soon we will see the first multi-hybrid models of business and work based on human labour, intelligent machines and virtual activities performed by humans and supported by virtual entities. Hence, there is no way to escape these forthcoming realities, we need to dive further into the virtual world and really prepare for it. The next 20 to 30 years will lead the world out of the historical comfort zone towards a future, which is still widely unknown. This may lead to economic, political and social turbulences and an increased anxiety of many people. Consequently, it becomes urgent to prepare some “interim solutions”. The latter is a challenge for governments, business, education and all of us. It requires a multidisciplinary and systemic approach with a courage’s view towards the future. The young generation has to play a key role in this respect; they are the closest to the future world. The older generations can help in harnessing their experience and guiding in using their values in order to point to the right direction to follow.



The concept of the Metaverse and its components is represented in Figure 2.



The “Metaverse” today is composed of four very different worlds: the “Multiverse”, our universe; the “virtual world”, the fast-expanding world based on the digital representation of our universe; and the “fantasy world”, based on the fiction humanity has produced. It may encompass the “dream world” as well. The “spiritual world” is highly developed within all religions, but is also an important part of individual consciousness. The virtual world may in future also contain a representation of the spiritual world and may develop its own spirituality. People are “citizens” of many worlds! Worth noting, that the concept of the Multiverse is still in evolution and the virtual world is at its infancy.

Let us take the world of arts as an example. The digitisation of artwork, linked with virtual art and the growing capacity of computer programs to develop their own pieces of art, will create immense new possibilities. Again, this is not science fiction, as the field of art is advancing in an amazing speed towards the Metaverse; today, we see already bold inroads into the virtual world.

In the virtual world, we may expect a move into “Singularity II”, the moment when the “programs” in the virtual world become independent. We cannot exclude the possibility that someday they will have a kind of “virtual consciousness”.28 With microprocessors built into everything, and many of the objects around us networked, the infrastructure for ubiquitous digital communication can be linked to virtual reality, becoming an extension of the virtual world. This is what we can expect from the Internet of Things.29

Now we wish to insist on the crucial importance of values. We need to construct virtual reality based on universal human values; otherwise the “old way” of thinking and behaving will dominate virtual reality and may lead towards a fight for dominance between our world and that of virtual reality. The fight for dominance and control will persist in the virtual world, with the same negative effects. The lack of partnership and care will reinforce the nightmares we are already having in “our world”.

We have to think about the fact that the only limits to virtual reality are the server capacity, the power supply, the programming and the transmission capacity. All these problems will probably have been solved in an unexpected way by virtual entities by the time of “Singularity II”. Conclusion: Technology is a major driver in the forthcoming transformation, but is not the only one.


Towards a Configuration of Competency Clusters

In the future, we will see the emergence of “competency clusters” due to digitalisation and virtualisation; this means a new form of organisation(s). A competency cluster will encompass R&D entities, education units, innovation parks, start-up incubators, virtual practices and labs, corresponding companies with their ecosystems, suppliers, supporting organisations, professional, experts etc. All these organisations will be clustered around one core competency like; health/healing; beverages/drinking; nutrition/feeding; education/learning & development; energy/providing power; construction; financial services etc. and around specialised competencies like infrastructure; ICT; robotics.

We will also see “Converging Competency Clusters” where several of them are converging, Example: BING = Biotech, Infotech, Nanotech & Genetics; NBIC, an acronym for Nanotechnology, Biotechnology, Information technology and Cognitive science, was, in 2014, the most popular term for converging technologies. It was introduced into public discourse through the publication of Converging Technologies for Improving Human Performance, a report sponsored in part by the US National Science Foundation. Various other acronyms have been offered for the same concept such as GNR (Genetics, Nanotechnology and Robotics) (Bill Joy, 2000, Why the Future Doesn’t Need Us). Journalist Joel Garreau in Radical Evolution: The Promise and Peril of Enhancing Our Minds, Our Bodies – and What It Means to Be Human uses “GRIN”, for Genetic, Robotic, Information, and Nano processes, while science journalist Douglas Mulhall in Our Molecular Future: How Nanotechnology, Robotics, Genetics and Artificial Intelligence Will Transform Our World uses “GRAIN”, for Genetics, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, and Nanotechnology. Another appropriate acronym coined by the technology organisation ETC Group is “BANG” for Bits, Atoms, Neurons, Genes.30


Summary and Conclusion

“Humanity needs a new dream! Partnership and care are the fundamentals of this new dream.” (Mario Raich, Riane Eisler, Simon Dolan, Cyberness: the future reinvented, 2014)

The world is going through a global and total transformation. Digitalisation seems to be just a transition towards virtualisation. The emerging new world is expected to bring incredible opportunities and cause major disruptions and mayhem to the traditional way life and work. However, is it offers at the same time a unique historical opportunity to review and recreate our society, economy and policies. We need to get prepared for a permanent transformation within the next few decades. The steady, well foreseeable world will be gone.

The future of work is a story about intense destruction and creation, never seen in our history so far. However, we should bear in mind it is a story about the complete human society, not just work. Therefore, it requires considering fundamental questions about human life. We need not only redefine what is the meaning of work, but also why we work. We need also ask what should be the outcomes of work. This leads to the questions about the purpose of the economy, and alternative models of economy.

We need to focus on the desired future and not just on the expected one. Imagination and dreams are an important part of our life. They must have their place in the education as well.

Education and politics can shape the desired future for good or evil. Therefore, the focus of education and politics should be on individual and social Life Quality.

In any case, we can assume that in the decades ahead we will see fundamental changes in the way we work and how work will be managed and remunerated. We will also see disruptive changes in education, particularly in leadership education.

To cope with the issues of the future work we may need to deal with the following:

Revisiting education: we need an education shift from a focus on learning towards permanent self-development and development of core competencies (i.e. talents). It must enable people to leverage the new technologies provided by the Cyber-Age and to cope with the transformation towards the digital and later on virtual world.
Revisiting the concept of work in the future: We need to focus on the desired future and not just on the expected one. Imagination and dreams are an important part of our life. They must have their place in the education as well.
Revisiting the concept of employability: The latter needs to be understood through life long learning and constant development and renewal of competencies. We need an education system encompassing the whole life experience. We need to develop new forms of ”work” based activities remunerating life quality sustaining and enhancing activities.
Revisiting the economy: We need to develop a new model of economy focussing on meaningful value created with new “hybrid” business models and competency clusters.
Revisiting government roles and taxation: The taxes should focus on the value created and encompass all value creating activities including the financial transactions.

Maybe we need to develop a new form of utopia of human civilisation. Only a widely spread utopia can provide the energy to save a perishing culture and civilisation. Utopia is a dream about a wishful state of society, which cannot be reached in practice. Nevertheless, it serves as a guiding star pointing at the right direction to go. The tension between the existing reality and utopia is a source of incredible energy. Without such tension, the society becomes flaccid and moves from active life experience towards passive endurance of fate. Thus, we should keep in mind that people are most dangerous, when they feel powerless and have nothing to lose!



About the Authors

Dr. Mario Raich is a Swiss futurist, book author and global management consultant. He was a Senior Executive in several global financial organisations, and Invited Professor to some leading business schools like ESADE (Barcelona). He is the co-founder of e-Merit Academy (, and Managing Director for the Innovation Services at Frei+Raich Ltd. in Zurich. In addition he is member of the advisory board of the Global Future of Work Foundation in Barcelona.

Dr. Simon L. Dolan is currently the President of the Global Future of Work Foundation. Used to be the Future of Work Chair at ESADE Business School in Barcelona. He is a prolific author with over 70 books on themes connected to managing people, culture reengineering, values and coaching. His full c.v. is at:

Dr. Dave Ulrich is the Rensis Likert Professor, Ross School of Business, University of Michigan and Partner at the RBL Group ( He has written over 30 books and 200 articles on talent, leadership, organisation and human resources.

Claudio Cisullo is a Swiss entrepreneur. During his entrepreneurial career, he founded and established over 26 companies in different business segments globally. He is Board member of several internationally renowned companies. He is the founder and owner of the family office, CC Trust Group AG and also the founder and Executive Chairman of Chain IQ Group AG with headquarters in Zurich. Chain IQ is an independent, global service and consulting company providing strategic, tactical and operational procurement.  (


1. After the robot revolution, what will be left for our children to do?;
2. ;
6. Dave Ulrich and Wendy Ulrich. 2010. The Why of Work How Great Leaders Build Abundant Organizations That Win. New York: McGraw Hill.
7. For more detailed description please look at: Beyond: Business and Society in Transformation, Mario Raich and Simon Dolan, Palgrave-MacMillan, London 2008 and “The great transformation in business and society. Reflections on current culture and extrapolation for the future“, Simon Dolan, Mario Raich, in: Cross Cultural Management: An International Journal, Vol. 16 No. 2, 2009, pp. 121-130
8. American Job dissatisfactuion reaches record high. Source.
9. Based on Ulrich & Ulrich. “why of work” – synthesis. Op. Cit.
13. Inside the AI revolution that’s reshaping Chinese society,
14. China is betting big on AI – and here’s why it’s going to pay off,
15. The rise of the QR code and how it has forever changed China’s social habits
17. Ibid.
20. David Richards The future isn’t cloud. It’s multi-cloud,
21. Khaitan et al., “Design Techniques and Applications of Cyber Physical Systems: A Survey”, IEEE Systems Journal, 2014.
23. Based on : Ulrich and Young: Beyond VUCA: What Next-Generation VUCA+ (DRET) Means for Your Organization and for You, Forthcoming paper 2017
24. See section on Social Wealth indicators. See also R. Eisler, Economics as if Caring Matters, Challenge Vol. 55, No. 2, March-April 2012; “R. Eisler. Economics and Business as if Caring Matters: Investing in our Future.” Cross Cultural Management: an International Journal, Vol. 20 Iss: 2, pp.145 – 160, April 2013.
25. Schiess, Ueli, and Jacqueline Schön-Bühlmann, “Satellitenkonto Haushaltsproduktion: Pilotversuch für die Schweiz (Satellite Account of Household Production for Switzerland),” Neuchâtel, CH: Statistik der Schweiz 2004.
26. “The Australian Care Economy” available at (last accessed September 18, 2013).
27. According to research done by McKinsey, less than 5 percent of all occupations can be automated entirely using demonstrated technologies, about 60 percent of all occupations have at least 30 percent of constituent activities that could be automated. Source: A Future that works: Automation, Employment and Productivity. MGI-A-future-that-works-Full-report.pdf
28. Mario Raich, Simon Dolan, Beyond Transformation of Business and Society, 2008, p.134
29. Yariv Levski, Why VR and Internet Of Things are a Natural Fit,
This paragraph is a summary taken from: “Technological convergence” – 


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