I cannot remember the books I’ve read any more than the meals I have eaten; even so, they have made me.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

A “future of work” search of the Internet returns over 100 million results, including news articles, research reports, press releases, book reviews, opinion columns, infographics, blog posts, and videos. While there is an avalanche of information concerning the impact of automation on employment, there is limited research concerning the emotional response to this news. I wondered about the sentiment this material evokes and topics that generate the most interest, and decided to undertake a rudimentary sentiment analysis of the “Daily #Futureofwork Curator” tweets.

 

Sentiment analysis fueled by “Big Data” is a relatively new field that is used for consumer research, social media analysis, and tracking of psychological trends. It is used to understand the voice of the customer, employee, reader, voter, etc. and classifies a person’s response using a star rating system similar to those that are in wide use. The nature of what we read tells us a lot about our psyches, our society and our view of the future. It helps us understand how we got to where we are, fuels our imagination concerning possibilities, and provides the means to control our destiny.

 

An examination of the “Daily #Futureofwork Curator” tweets over the past 12 months that garnered the highest engagement rate suggests that the readers of “future of work” literature are attracted to material that evokes a positive emotional response (3.6 stars on a 5-stars scale) versus a pessimistic view of the future. While our response reflects concerns, especially related to issues of regional, class, racial, age and gender-based disparities, our orientation is hopeful and geared toward the practical steps required to successfully adapt to the effects of automation, globalization, and urbanization.

 

Over the past year, “future of work” topics that garnered the greatest interest fell into the following broad categories.

 

  • New rules of economic behavior and corporate responsibility,

 

  • Changing nature of occupations, the composition of the workforce, especially as Millennials have become the largest segment of U.S. workers, organization of work and tasks, role of transnational, virtual and remote teams, and integration of man and machine,

 

  • Transformation of the higher education system from a degree-granting to a lifelong learning orientation,
  • Preparation of our institutions for the “future of work” at the regional, state and local level, including safety-net programs, and

 

  • Glimpses into the far future, 50 years hence.

 

While our reading interests have shifted to a quest for solutions, we are no longer drawn to the screaming headings concerning the significant loss of jobs or views of so-called experts. Also, we have little interest in dystopian tropes and conspiracy theories.

 

When I began to study the impact of automation on the U.S. workforce a couple of years ago, the amount of research that was available was sparse, with Frey and Osborne’s 2013 Future of Employment study being the principal resource. Since then, a rich library of literature has developed (see https://awwew.com/resources/), which explores the various facets of the impact on employment. Over the past year, Boston Consulting Group, Brookings Institute, Federal Reserve, Harvard University, IBM, McKinsey Global Institute, MIT, National Academy of Sciences and Rand Corporation have made significant contributions to the body of knowledge concerning the “future of work”. These and others continue to enhance our understanding of issues and opportunities, and provide us with the grist needed to successfully plot and navigate our path to tomorrow’s workplace.

 

While the voice of the reader suggests a “positive, but anxious” view of the future, we stand on a knife’s edge. Our journey will be made amid tectonic shifts in demographics, likely global recession, serious environmental challenges, and political upheaval. At AWWEW.com, we’ll continue to monitor and report on the sentiment expressed by the “future of work” topics that garner our readers’ interests. For we will become what we read!

 

 

Joe Smialowski

November 15, 2019

Voice of the Reader

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