I recently shared an article with my Twitter community members about the post-work economy in response to Dr. Burns’ tweet about a hotel’s robot concierge. Since then, I have often thought about my place in the workforce and my value as a social scientist to the larger economic picture. In consideration of Tremblay (1995) and Rule and Besen (2008), I think rhugenwrites gets it right by saying the future they forecast concerning the “information society does not present a message of hope, but rather a darker perspective on the future” (2016, para. 1).
Tremblay (1995) points out that due to fast-paced developments in technology, phrases such as “the information society” and “the knowledge economy” are often used interchangeably. Although Tremblay doesn’t offer clear distinctions of each, he does provide interesting ways for us to consider the changes in our society by labeling our past in the context of Henry Ford and our present in the context of Bill Gates. These comparisons illustrate clear differences from past to present, but perhaps most importantly, it serves as a catalyst to question where we go from here. Tremblay (1995) discusses the fact that our society has been through changes in the way we think about work, providing the example that “laid-off workers in the primary sector shifted to the secondary sector, and those in the secondary sector moved on to the tertiary sector, after often long and painful transition periods. But there are no more sectors” (para. 60). If, in fact, there are no more sectors, what do we do? How do we prepare? How might we embrace and adapt to changes in our society?
If, in fact, there are no more sectors, what do we do? How do we prepare? How might we embrace and adapt to changes in our society? Cowan, David, and Foray (2000) discuss the economic issues associated with the “intellectual property rights regime and the disclosure conventions of various epistemic communities” (p. 250). Can we work together to foster new sectors in the face of these tensions?
As scholars, I believe it’s important to look at the bigger picture. Powell and Snellman (2004) define the knowledge economy as “production and services based on knowledge-intensive activities that contribute to an accelerated pace of technical and scientific advance, as well as rapid obsolescence”(p. 201). These authors point out that existing research on the knowledge economy focuses on knowledge production rather than its impact. It makes sense that Powell and Snellman (2004) assert that this shortcoming is neglectful. They maintain that “a key insight of the productivity debate is that significant gains in productivity are achieved only when new technologies are married to complementary organizational practices”(p. 215). As a health and risk communication researcher, I know that more communication is not always better. Studying dissemination and the impact of knowledge is crucial in the era of big data.
Regardless of all the gloom and doom I can muster in considering the future, I remain optimistic. Rule and Besen (2008) say “those whose work involves social analysis are also inclined to believe that such understanding promotes all sorts of other good effects. Educated understanding of social life supposedly encourages economic growth and prosperity; it renders the individuals who incorporate it more productive and successful; it makes organizations more egalitarian and effective; and it reduces the role of destructive conflict in human affairs” (p. 341).
Here’s to the future and, hopefully, job security.
Cowan, R., David, P. A., & Foray, D. (2000). The explicit economics of knowledge codification and tacitness. Industrial & Corporate Change, 9(2), 211-253.
Powell, W. W., & Snellman, Kaisa. (2004). The knowledge economy. Annual Review of Sociology, 30, 199-220. doi:10.1146/annurev.soc.29.010202.100037
Rule, J. B., & Besen, Yasemin. (2008). The once and future information society. Theory and Society, 37(4), 317-342. doi:10.1007/s11186-007-9049-6
Tremblay, G. (1995). The information society: From Fordism to Gatesism. Canadian Journal of Communication, 20(4), 461-482.