Five Books on the Future of Work a Drone May Soon Deliver to Your Home

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Drones will soon deliver packages to your doorstep, you can customize your fast food order at a kiosk, artificial intelligence is replacing customer service positions and helping alleviate the workload for TAs, and robots are replacing factory workers at manufacturing plants.

The future of work is changing quickly and while some jobs are being lost, there are nearly 6 million jobs that are currently available, we just have to come together to fill the skills gap that is preventing them from being filled.

For the economically savvy; people looking for a job, worried about whether their job is at risk, and students trying to figure what school to attend; and those who are trying to develop programs to fill in the gaps, we selected five books that can help get your new year on the right job track.

1No Ordinary Disruption: The Four Global Forces Breaking All the Trends


Synopsis: The world not only feels different. The data tell us it is different. Based on years of research by the directors of the McKinsey Global Institute, No Ordinary Disruption: The Four Forces Breaking all the Trends, is a timely and important analysis of how we need to reset our intuition as a result of four forces colliding and transforming the global economy: the rise of emerging markets, the accelerating impact of technology on the natural forces of market competition, an aging world population, and accelerating flows of trade, capital and people.

Why Should I Read This: For those looking to gain a better understanding of the four pillars of structural unemployment, “No Ordinary Disruption” shines a light on the rapid changes in Technology, Globalization, Emerging Markets and Demography.

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2Thank You For Being Late: An Optimist’s Guide to Thriving in the Age of Accelerations

Synopsis: We all sense it—something big is going on. You feel it in your workplace. You feel it when you talk to your kids. You can’t miss it when you read the newspapers or watch the news. Our lives are being transformed in so many realms all at once—and it is dizzying.

In Thank You for Being Late, a work unlike anything he has attempted before, Thomas L. Friedman exposes the tectonic movements that are reshaping the world today and explains how to get the most out of them and cushion their worst impacts.

Why Should I Read This: Friedman looks at the three largest forces that are accelerating all at once―Moore’s law (technology), the Market (globalization), and Mother Nature (climate change and biodiversity loss)—and how they are transforming five key realms: the workplace, politics, geopolitics, ethics, and community.

Friedman argues that in order for the workforce to be successful we need to be open to adapt and we need to get more educated. As he explains the “social contract of the future” between companies and employees is “you can be a life-long employee, but only if you’re a life-long learner.” People are going to have to accept the fact that they will need new skills to adapt to the changing needs of their employers, and they are going to need those skills more often. And to create a symbiotic relationship, employers will need to relay the skills needed and provide the training necessary for employees to evolve with the changing demands.

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3Rise of the Robots: Technology and the Threat of a Jobless Future

Synopsis: What are the jobs of the future? How many will there be? And who will have them? As technology continues to accelerate and machines begin taking care of themselves, fewer people will be necessary. Artificial intelligence is already well on its way to making “good jobs” obsolete: many paralegals, journalists, office workers, and even computer programmers are poised to be replaced by robots and smart software.

As progress continues, blue and white collar jobs alike will evaporate, squeezing working- and middle-class families ever further. At the same time, households are under assault from exploding costs, especially from the two major industries—education and healthcare—that, so far, have not been transformed by information technology. The result could well be massive unemployment and inequality as well as the implosion of the consumer economy itself.

Why Should I Read This: The past solutions to technological disruption, especially more training and education, aren’t going to work. We must decide, now, whether the future will see broad-based prosperity or catastrophic levels of inequality and economic insecurity. Rise of the Robots is essential reading to understand what accelerating technology means for our economic prospects—not to mention those of our children—as well as for society as a whole.

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4The Second Machine Age: Work, Progress, and Prosperity in a Time of Brilliant Technologies

Synopsis: In recent years, Google’s autonomous cars have logged thousands of miles on American highways and IBM’s Watson trounced the best human Jeopardy! players. Digital technologies—with hardware, software, and networks at their core—will in the near future diagnose diseases more accurately than doctors can, apply enormous data sets to transform retailing, and accomplish many tasks once considered uniquely human.

In The Second Machine Age, MIT’s Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee—two thinkers at the forefront of their field—make the case that we should be optimistic about the future because technological progress, ‘the only free lunch that economists believe in,’ is accelerating quickly past our intuitions and expectations. But we should also be mindful of our values and our choices: as technology races ahead, it may leave a lot of people, organizations and institutions behind.

Why Should I Read This: This is the book that explains the new age we’re quickly heading into and shows why we should be optimistic about it, yet also discusses the challenges it will bring.

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5Why Good People Can’t Get Jobs: The Skills Gap and What Companies Can Do About It

Synopsis: Even in a time of perilously high unemployment, companies contend that they cannot find the employees they need. Pointing to a skills gap, employers argue applicants are simply not qualified; schools aren’t preparing students for jobs; the government isn’t letting in enough high-skill immigrants; and even when the match is right, prospective employees won’t accept jobs at the wages offered.

Peter Cappelli, Wharton management professor and director of Wharton’s Center for Human Resources, debunks the arguments and exposes the real reasons good people can’t get hired. Drawing on jobs data, anecdotes from all sides of the employer-employee divide, and interviews with jobs professionals, he explores the paradoxical forces bearing down on the American workplace and lays out solutions that can help us break through what has become a crippling employer-employee stand-off.

Why Should I Read This: Cappelli confronts the skills gap and provides an actionable path toward putting people back to work. He answers key questions such as, to what extent is the hiring process being held hostage by automated software that can crunch thousands of applications an hour? What kind of training could best bridge the gap between employer expectations and applicant realities, and who should foot the bill for it? Are schools really at fault?

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Did we leave a book off the list that you would like to recommend? Tell us in the comments on the next slide.

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