Commentary,  Future of Work,  Technology

Busting Myths about Technology and the Future of Work

We are constantly told that ‘technology’ is driving profound changes in work, workplaces and society. We might be concerned about the impacts of some of those changes, but since they are the result of ‘technology,’ and everyone since the Luddites knows you can’t stop technology, there is no point trying to resist or ameliorate those changes.

But what is ‘technology’, anyway? We don’t live in the world of Terminator, where machines control society (not yet, anyway!). Technology is just a shorthand way of referring to the composite of human knowledge about how we work, what we produce, and the tools we use to produce it. Human beings, not some irresistible exogenous force, made the decisions about what problems to solve with new technologies, how they are implemented in real-world use – and, critically, how the costs and benefits of new technologies are shared.

Centre for Future Work Director Jim Stanford discussed these issues in a recent webinar hosted by Humanist Canada (the association of humanists across Canada). That’s the perfect audience with which to put the ‘human’ back into discussions about technological change. Video from the 1-hour webinar is posted below. For more on how to channel and regulate technology in ways that lift working conditions and living standards (rather than intensifying work and producing greater inequality), please see our recent Centre for Future Work #PowerShare report: Bargaining Tech: Strategies for Shaping Technological Change to Benefit Workers, by Jim Stanford and Kathy Bennett.

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Jim Stanford is Economist and Director of the Centre for Future Work. He divides his time between Sydney, Australia and Vancouver, Canada. Jim is one of Canada’s best-known economic commentators. He served for over 20 years as Economist and Director of Policy with Unifor, Canada’s largest private-sector trade union.