Video - Future of Work

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(Light blue gradient background, pleasant, futuristic music Animated buildings with telecom equipment on their roofs along with a satellite appear.)

The nature of work is changing. The last decade has seen the rise of global information networks and automation technologies. The next decade will experience changes at the very foundation of what work is, how we value it, and how it defines us as individuals.

(Buildings are connected by lines in a connect the dots fashion .Animated people appear on the screen one by one to create a crowd.)

No one knows for sure exactly what the future will hold, but it is worth imagining what it could look and feel like to help us prepare for the changes ahead.

(Crowd disappears except for one animated man.)

Let’s meet Alex to explore one plausible future.

(Man shown looking out onto a large farming operation. Two other people later appear with him.)

Alex works on a commercial grain farm in the Prairies. He likes his job, and he’s good at it.

(Plants start growing out of the ground and modern farming technologies appear throughout the farm landscape.)

Over the last century, farming has evolved into the large-scale mechanized agri-business we know today. New technologies and processes permit workers like Alex to do the same amount of work that once required entire teams.

(Two of the people disappear, leaving one man looking out on the farm land. More modern and futuristic technologies appear.)

But the change hasn’t stopped there. As precision agriculture and advanced automation make farming more complex, Alex’s job becomes as much about managing information as managing land.

(Same man is now shown standing in front of a computer screen watching the modern technologies move around the farm. Peripheral equipment sprouts from the computer screen.)

And as these systems get “smarter,” they produce better yields, lower costs, and greater efficiencies. We come to expect more and more from each worker—in productivity, but also in the capacity to handle more complex schedules and information systems.

(Computer screen splits into four outdoor scenes depicting various facets of agri-business. Several bubbles containing people and a city names appear over the background of the outdoor scenes.)

At the same time, new virtual work platforms allow information jobs to be broken up into a series of tasks, which can be redistributed to a global network of virtual freelancers.

These advanced platforms facilitate the “unbundling” of many traditional jobs

In an increasingly competitive marketplace, the question for many employers is this: Why keep a full-time worker on-site, if the same job can be performed remotely via digital networks, in less time and for less money?

(Other modern technologies also appear and disappear.)

With the robotic automation of manual tasks and the virtual outsourcing of more skilled labour, Alex, like many others, finds himself squeezed out of a traditional job.

(Computer screen goes black and all the bubbles and technologies disappear as the man stands there watching. He is then shown in front of a mountain view window shrugging his shoulders)

Alex is a smart and capable worker, but can he adapt to this precarious and complex new work reality?

(Window disappears and man is shown, still shrugging, in front of a black background. He stops shrugging and the mountain view window re-appears. )

He can…but he’ll need the help of many of the same technologies and forces that made him redundant.

(Man is now shown looking at rotating map quadrants.)

Fortunately, Alex has access to a growing number of virtual work platforms that tap into a global market of people looking for work and selling their services.

(Bio pages of people replace the map quadrants.)

In a world of ubiquitous data, these platforms steer Alex towards opportunities that fit his interests, skill set and work experience.

(Lines connecting dots is shown.)

They also track his reputation – how well he learns new skills and performs tasks. This information helps employers find the right people to hire, without even meeting them in person.

(Lines connecting dots disappear and are replaced by peoples’ bio pages, map quadrants and various work-related icons.)

These same platforms facilitate customized training for work just out of his reach, and connect him with mentors and partners.

They also provide services that make short-term work easier for freelancers by managing contracts, taxes and legal support, leaving Alex more time to focus on paid work

(Man is shown putting on high-tech glasses while looking out onto a white background. The white background changes to a scene of a laboratory with lab workers appearing behind a counter.)

New simulation and wearable technology allows Alex to turn the world into a classroom. He has toured agronomy labs, talked to world-class scientists, and immerses himself in information relevant to his work interests through games and simulations.

(Lab and workers disappears and the man now looks down a street lined with buildings. Connected dots, peoples’ resumés and a map appear and disappear against the street background.)

Alex starts to find ad hoc work opportunities that use the full range of his skills.

(The man walks down the building-lined street and appears back at the farm, holding a beaker accompanied by two other people. He is then shown alone in front of a retail counter and later joined by two people, as well as two other people in thought bubbles with city names under their image.)

Sometimes he meets directly with people to perform soil testing. Other times he works with small groups, in personal and virtually to complete a project.

(Background changes to a light blue gradient. The man has a concerned look on his face. A bundle of money surrounded by question marks and exclamation points appears over his head.)

Like most self-employed entrepreneurs, there are slow days where he worries about cash flow. On those days, he uses his virtual platform to find other activities that will fill the income gap.

(Man holding a lunch box smiles as the bundle of money and punctuation disappears from above his head. His smiling face is now shown in a circle and placed over North America on a world map. Other people are similarly shown plotted on locations all over the map then connected and disconnected by lines.)

With new friends and colleagues all over the world, Alex has adjusted to his new work life, finding it meaningful and satisfying.

New social programs help make his virtual work more viable and successful.

(Man is shown looking at a picture of a farm. )

Sometimes he misses his old farm job, the familiarity of a well-worn routine. But he knows the economy and the nature of work are constantly changing.

(Background fades to a light blue gradient. Animated buildings with telecom equipment on their roofs along with a satellite appear. Buildings are connected by lines in a connect the dots fashion.)

These changes are not going to happen overnight, and they are going to hit different industries at different times.

(Background changes to a light blue gradient with various scientific and technology themed graphics appearing.)

But over the next ten to fifteen years, emerging technologies like artificial intelligence, data analytics, robotics and synthetic biology will start to change the economy and the nature of work for professional, skilled and non-skilled workers - all over the world.

(Light blue gradient background with text appearing on the screen:)

How can individuals, firms, schools, communities and governments prepare for the challenges and opportunities in the nature of work that lie ahead?

(Screen text - Two publication covers are shown on the light blue gradient background.)

For more information on the changing nature of work, please see the MetaScan 2 and MetaScan 3 foresight studies at

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Policy Horizons Canada is a foresight organization whose mandate is to help anticipate emerging issues to support resilient policy development within the Public Service of Canada. The views contained in this video do not necessarily represent the views of the Government of Canada.

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©Her majesty the Queen in Right of Canada, represented by Policy Horizons Canada, 2014.

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