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The Future of Work: Twitter Chat Highlights

April 25, 2016

In a wide-ranging online discussion, MIT IDE Director Erik Brynjolfsson and O’Reilly Media Founder and CEO, Tim O’Reilly, fielded questions about the future of work, automation and education, and how the Inclusive Innovation Competition can play a part in addressing these critical digital economy concerns.

During the one-hour Twitter chat on April 13, Brynjolfsson said that new skills, business models and interaction with machines are required in order for the workforce to keep pace with the huge transformations taking place. The Inclusive Innovation Competition (IIC) was created to allow mid- and base-level income earners to access and share in bounty of The Second Machine Age (#2MA ) and the digital era, he said.

The IIC is seeking Inclusive Innovators — technology optimists who believe technology can enhance the well-being of all — that have harnessed the modern toolkit of innovation to improve the #FutureofWork. The IIC will recognize and reward organizations that can demonstrate clear and compelling solutions and set standards of achievement.

Education, appropriate tax credits and Inclusive Innovation can lead to shared prosperity, Brynjolfsson said. In response to a question, he said that some basic income plan may need to emerge in the U.S., but not in the near-term: “I give basic income high odds by 2040 in the U.S., low odds by 2020.”

O’Reilly, one of the competition judges, sees technology replacing some white-collar jobs, not just manual jobs. Nevertheless, he doesn’t think employment changes are “either linear or exponential. It is far more complex. Some jobs will disappear completely and quickly, while new jobs — as in healthcare, for example — will explode on the scene. As with all wicked problems,” O’Reilly said, “there is no one with a magic wand. We all have to step up!”

The full Storify presentation of the event can be found here.

Among other highlights of the chat:

  • Training costs will be the combined responsibility of employees, firms and government. Employees may pay for more general skills, and firms for more job-specific training, Brynjolfsson said. Education has to be re-invented “to focus more on creativity and interpersonal skills, not just facts and instruction.”
  • We need to correct the imbalance between employment supply and demand. For instance, “5 million ICT jobs are open today. More effective matching of qualified people with open opportunities,” is an important requirement, Brynjolfsson said. Matching is one of the four categories of the IIC.
  • As pointed out in The Second Machine Age, and in this TedTalk, Brynjolfsson believes that to create economic opportunity for all, humans must work together with machines. Humans + Machines is another category of the IIC.
  • New Models to help business and society adapt, as well as new employment Skills are necessary as work evolves. Firms like General Assembly (@GA) and BioBuilder (@SystemsSally), which were represented at the IIC’s recent showcase, are already developing new ways to teach digital skills (and access relevant jobs). New Models and Skills are also categories of the IIC.

For more on @MIT_IIC categories, see and

Also see this blog and others on Medium.