Spread across two days the WorldPost Future of Work conference presented a handful of the most successful leaders from forward thinking organisations, policy makers, professors and journalists. Together they discussed issues concerning the work place in a highly digital world. The talks involved a variety of panel debates from the rise of A.I., new approaches to motivating staff, the future of employment and education, and the geo-technological landscape thus far, to name a few.
The conference kicked off on Thursday March 5 at the grand Lancaster House in Mayfair. Limited to 200 invite-only participants, power suits and big players rubbed shoulders whilst young and aspiring enterpreneurs rushed around seeking the best advice from esteemed individuals they’d only dream of meeting.
An introduction speech was led by the conference’s organizers; Arianna Huffington, President of The Huffington Post, Nicolas Berggruen, Founder of the Berggruen Institute, and Nathan Gardens, Editor-in-Chief of The WorldPost. Broadcaster and journalist Emily Maitlis moderated the conference.
The first speaker Andrew McAfee, associate director of the Center for Digital Business at the MIT, gave an engaging talk on the Rise of the Machines. He proposed a five-part solution to his theory of The Great Uncoupling between historical living standards and company profits, which he called the E-I-E-I-O approach. In his insightful graph he presents data that suggests that as technology has evolved, wages have dropped. (Have a look in the video below.)
In the session ‘Boom not Doom: Ensuring the Future is Defined by Opportunity’ Amy Rosen, board member of the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE), stated that we were still at an early stage of understanding start-ups and called for governments to think about how they could make people want to start their own businesses and become job creators through fairer government policies.
To strengthen her argument David Gergen, Co-Director for the Center for Public Leadership, mentioned that, ‘in the US a third of the workforce are freelancers’ and predicted that this will increase to 40% by 2020.
More interesting theories were explored by Jeremy Rifkin, president of the Foundation on Economic Trends, who shared his ideas of the Third Revolution which he claims we are shifting towards. He said, ‘the lowest marginal cost of the Internet of Things means many commodities will soon be free and available to everyone,’ and that it is driven by a near zero marginal cost society.
Eric Schmidt, executive chairman of Google, addressed some of the ills of technology including ISIS, which exploits the web, particularly Youtube, to radicalize and recruit new members. He also gave socially good examples of the internet such as Kenyan schools that turn to Google for knowledge as they lack proper textbooks. He asked leaders to stop reverting to the rhetoric that certain knowledge was for ‘elites written for the elites’ and reminded us that one of the great accomplishments of the internet was eliminating a social divide for access to knowledge. A poor family in Kenya is ‘just as smart’ as an internet user in an affluent society.
Unfortunately I am unable to cover all talks that took place on the first day here but more information can be found here. Part II tomorrow.
I would like to thank Creative Access for the opportunity to attend such a fascinating event.