In the cyborg age, humans and technology are deeply and inextricably intertwined. Implants, immersive virtual reality and other innovations beg the question, “what is it to be human?”  Those privileged with connection and access to others through the web may not have the same needs for mobility as their predecessors. This age will fundamentally challenge our assumptions about work, manufacturing, value and relationships. 

Work in the future (shifts in commuting)

  • Work in the future will be characterized by extreme fragmentation between classes. Manufacturing jobs will be threatened by robotic ‘workers,’ and even the professional services jobs once thought to be immune to computer threats, like analysts and investment managers, will be challenged by the advent of increasingly effective machine intelligence (artificial intelligence).
  • The workforce will be more distributed and malleable than ever before. For one, digital technologies will have leveled the field between remote and ‘in-person’ work. Companies’ expansion to global markets will mean that the concept of a ‘central’ point of leadership in firms will evolve to a more networked model of leadership. Strategic partnerships between firms—a necessary approach when the complexity of interoperable, digital systems is required for new digital products--will result in a highly interdependent model of business which also leads to interdependent workforces. This could lead to more and more freelance workers, or just more ‘employee sharing’ between companies, depending on factors which cannot fully be predicted.

Objects in the future (shifts in shipping)

  • Hyperlocal manufacturing, where technological advances have made both manufacturing and growing things at the local scale far more efficient
  • On-demand manufacturing and 3D printing, where the concept of building things is more like printing something from a library than it is a massive, purpose-specific factory. Possible advances in 3D printing at higher and higher resolutions and with metallic materials could make individually-owned printers viable in a way which they are not currently.

For a fascinating read of the possibilities of manufacturing when nanotechnology becomes pervasive, read science fiction author Neal Stephenson’s novel Diamond Age.