New PBS series lifts the lid on the way we work and what’s next

Diego Gerena Quinones

It’s a courageous new world, the place cobots (collaborative robots), automation, synthetic intelligence and globalization, amongst different components, advances and shrinks our working world.

A brand new three-part PBS docuseries airing Wednesday at 10 p.m., “Future of Work,” explores the new regular, with a deep dive into the present state of work and its future. A fourth technology farmer talks about know-how; a surgeon in the working room works alongside a robotic; a restaurant proprietor picks up the pandemic items by creating an all-inclusive labor mannequin.

Explored with professional commentary and perception, “Future of Work” additionally features a six-part series by way of PBS Digital Studios’ YouTube channel and a social series on the PBS IGTV channel.

The present was impressed by Studs Terkel’s best-selling 1974 ebook, “Working: People Talk About What They Do All Day and How They Feel About What They Do,” (Pantheon), which checked out the lives of producing staff. Series creator and government producer Denise Dilanni expanded this idea to industries and socioeconomic teams throughout the nation. As the pandemic erupted throughout filming, the series’ authentic themes grew to become much more pronounced.

“There were a couple things that were really clear that were going on pre-pandemic,” she mentioned. “Work was being separated from a physical space. People were working remotely. There was an increased reliance on cobots and autonomous robots. We knew there were many questions about whether a college degree was the path to the future in terms of future-proofing your job.”

Dilanni’s crew, together with Llewellyn M. Smith, director and author of the second episode, additionally interviewed folks resembling Diego Gerena-Quiñones, a lifelong New Yorker who started working for a messenger service in 2012. Facing unsteady pay and no health-care advantages, Gerena-Quiñones purchased a fleet of cargo bikes to safe regular work for himself and his co-workers. Unfortunately, it got here to a screeching halt throughout COVID-19, and Gerena-Quiñones ended up transferring to Puerto Rico.

Diego Gerena-Quiñones stands with his delivery service cargo bike in front of a NYC mural.
New Yorker Diego Gerena-Quiñones labored on his supply service job earlier than the COVID-19 pandemic pressured him to maneuver again to Puerto Rico.

“We were blown away with how honest he was,” mentioned Smith. “He was very frank about the psychological impact — depression, the fear about what was going to happen in terms of making money. He described that his whole world collapsed. He was riding high on the vision of having his own company.”

The candidness of the topics, the professional commentary and reminders of previous industrial revolutions make it must-see TV. You can’t assist however assume: Am I future-proofed? What abilities do I have to be taught? How can my profession get forward of synthetic intelligence?

Ravin Jesuthasan, a self-proclaimed futurist, world thought chief and co-author of “Reinventing Jobs: A 4-Step Approach for Applying Automation to Work” (Harvard Business Review Press) featured in the series, beneficial staying abreast of which industries and jobs are trending up versus trending down.

“There are always markers of what jobs are emerging, if we look hard enough,” he mentioned. “Our planning horizon should not be a lifetime or even 15 years. It should be closer to five years. We need to have the mindset of continuous learning, so we can stay relevant.”

Jobs liable to being automated embrace bookkeepers, underwriters, manufacturing facility staff, paralegals, receptionists, information entry specialists and file clerks.

“We need to ask: ‘How can tasks that I do be done better?’” mentioned Jesuthasan. “Where can automation or AI replace my work, augment my work to make me more productive, or transform the work and create new opportunities? It’s important to think about technical skills as well as human/enabling skills like creativity, critical thinking, innovation, empathy, communication.”

“It’s about what skills do you need, and then, how can you deploy them in other ways that are hopefully creative and make you, one would hope, indispensable?” mentioned Jesuthasan.

In this Nov. 20, 2019, file photo, workers are shown at an Apple manufacturing plant in Austin, Texas.
Self-proclaimed futurist Ravin Jesuthasan argues staff susceptible to automation alternative want to realize “technical” and “human/enabling” to adapt in the job market.
AP Photo/ Evan Vucci, File

Vivienne Ming, a scientist and entrepreneur featured in the series, mentioned that no matter you do, relaxation assured anyone is looking for a machine to do it as an alternative.

Smith discovered it attention-grabbing to listen to Ming discuss her workers feeling challenged by the uncertainty of their future.

“They know they’re not indispensable,” he mentioned. “The opportunities are incredible, but so are the challenges and the fears. A lot of people who are going into college now, that’s not the world they are going to meet.”

Do we have to redefine the American dream?

“If you’re saying the American dream needs predictable progress and betterment beyond [that of] our parents, all of our advisors and a lot of research says that’s not the way it’s going to be for the vast majority of people,” mentioned Smith. “It’s a matter of rethinking what we want to make of that so-called American dream. If it’s tied to predictable endless future progress generation after generation, year after year, no, that’s gone. That’s my opinion, anyway.”

Dilanni additionally checked out the so-called barbell financial system — development at the high with very specialised, extremely paid expert work and speedy enlargement at the backside with low paying, low ability jobs, whereas center class jobs shrink.

A sale pending sign is displayed outside a residential home for sale in East Derry, New Hampshire.
Director and author Llewellyn M. Smith claims “​​so-called American dream” will not occur for the majority of Americans.
AP Photo/Charles Krupa, File

“We have a very segmented society when it comes to work,” mentioned Dilanni. “What we’re trying to do with the series is to let folks know that, and to really marry the changes in work: Logistical changes, global changes, labor practice changes. There are many different American dreams depending on where you land in this nation. Secure work, home ownership, sending your kids to school, letting your kids do better than you did economically — if that’s only available to 20 or 30 percent of the population, what is the implication of that?”

Dilanni recalled a author who mentioned that we get to determine what we wish to do with all these work modifications. “The conversation as a nation we want to have is about equity, about social justice. I hope that all the work we’re doing around all these platforms provokes that.”