In the early 1800s, the Luddites, a group of English textile workers, feared new automatic weaving machines were going to eliminate their jobs, so they destroyed them in protest. Massachusetts Institute of Technology economist David H. Autor points to that event as an early example of how fragile the dynamics between human workers and technology can be, and he notes that fears about automation's impact on jobs has been a recurring theme in the U.S. since the 1960s.
The issue has regained prominence recently, as the disruption created by rapid and accelerating digitization continues apace. However, as MIT scholars Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee explained in their best-selling book, such disruption is accompanied by tremendous opportunity. As a result of technological advancement, "there's never been a better time to be a worker with special skills or the right education, because these people can use technology to create and capture value."
Minoru Usui, global president of Seiko Epson Corporation, struck a similar chord in his keynote address at the 2017 CeBIT Global Conferences. Citing extensive research his company has conducted into the workplace of tomorrow, he acknowledged that there are both negative and positive perceptions about the role technology will play. For example, many workers fear there will be fewer employees in the future, and most corporations anticipate major disruption. At the same time, he said, "There is also a perception that working environments will improve, and that jobs will become more productive, accurate, and analytical."
This paper is intended to shine some light on the human and technology dynamics that characterize the current workplace, the challenges and opportunities they present to workers and employers, and what's coming down the pike. As Usui noted at CeBIT, "Technology must remain focused on positives." It cannot be viewed in a vacuum. It must be part of a larger conversation, viewed through the lens of organizational values, competitiveness, and the dynamics involved with the workers who use it.
We hope you enjoyed this introduction from our new whitepaper, "The Human and Technology Dynamics of the Modern Workplace". To read more, click here.