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Technology-Driven Changes in Work and Employment

Technology-Driven Changes in Work and Employment, illustration

Credit: zenzen

We live in a global society where technology, especially information and communication technology, is changing the way businesses create and capture value, how and where we work, and how we interact and communicate. In her seminal 1988 book, In the Age of the Smart Machine: The Future of Work and Power,45 Shoshana Zuboff was among the first scholars to weave together the technological, sociological, and psychological processes that have converged to shape the modern workplace. Her insights concerned the nature of information and its significance in restructuring and redefining the patterns and meanings of work, even though at the time of her study the worldwide diffusion of the Internet had not yet occurred. Academic literature, not only in business9,32,42 but also in medicine,15,38 engineering,23,40 physical sciences,30 and social sciences,21,37 echo these observations in more recent times. To illustrate the effects of the changes on organizations, we consider their implications for the management of human talent.

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The new wave of technological innovation features the emerging general paradigm known as "ubiquitous computing,"a or an environment where computational technology permeates almost everything, enabling new ways of connecting people, computers, and objects. Ever-cheaper cost for computation has resulted in the proliferation of computing devices, including personal computers, embedded (enabled by micro-miniaturization) and networked industrial sensors and processors, speech-recognition and eye-tracking devices, mobile devices, radio-frequency-identification and near-frequency-communication tags and labels, global-positioning-systems-enabled devices, smart televisions, car navigation systems, drones, wearable sensors, robots, and 3D virtual reality. The ubiquitous computing infrastructure also enables collection of enormous quantities of structured and unstructured data, requiring the adjective "big" to distinguish this new paradigm of development. Ubiquitous computing also blurs the boundaries between industries, nations, companies, providers, partners, competitors, employees, freelancers, outsourcers, volunteers, and customers. They also yield opportunities to unify the physical space, which has always used information to try to make an inherently inefficient system more efficient, and the electronic space, which enables information accessibility to overcome the limitations of the physical space. Merging the physical and the electronic also has implications for privacy and security, as well as how companies are organized and manage human talent.


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