The shift toward human work and what it means for society

A conversation with Jamie Merisotis, president & CEO, Lumina Foundation

“The role of workers in being transformed by automation and artificial intelligence.” This could sound like a dire warning about the future of work. Instead, Jamie Merisotis, president and CEO of Lumina Foundation, issues it as a challenge. A challenge that we can—and must—rise to.

“There’s been a lot of discussion about whether or not the robots are coming to take our jobs, and I don’t think that’s the question. What we’re seeing is a shift towards human work, which is the work that only humans can do,” Merisotis tells me in this week’s Work in Progress podcast. “What we have to figure out here is what tasks we do that are uniquely human and how we can actually prepare for those tasks in work and in life.”

In his new book, Human Work in the Age of Smart Machines, he lays out the importance of figuring out how we can work alongside smart machines, doing that which only humans can do: “thinking critically, reasoning ethically, interacting personally, and serving others with empathy.”

“Machines can learn by essentially using algorithms and they dig deeper and deeper into data. And that’s how they gain the ability to perform tasks faster, to recognize patterns, to do things repetitively, et cetera,” he explains.

For humans, we learn differently, over time, consuming content, and through our personal experiences. It’s important, he argues, to talk a closer look at how we can improve both formal and informal learning after high school to “enhance and develop our human capacities, our compassion, our ethics, our critical thinking, our interpersonal communication, through formal learning experiences, through work, and living our daily lives.”

Why is this important? “For us, as humans, work matters. We work not only because it helps us economically, but because it gives us social mobility, personal satisfaction, meaning, and purpose.”

Our conversation goes deeper into the reasons that this “human work” concept is so important as we look at the work of the future. I think you will find it—and the book—compelling.

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Download the transcript of this podcast here.

Episode 151: Jamie Merisotis, President and CEO of Lumina Foundation
Host: Ramona Schindelheim, Editor-in-Chief, WorkingNation
Producer: Larry Buhl
Executive Producers: Joan Lynch, Melissa Panzer, and Ramona Schindelheim
Music: Composed by Lee Rosevere and licensed under CC by 4.0.

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