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Future of work glossary
Welcome to Working the Future's glossary. Here you'll find our glossary of terms relating to socio-cultural and technological shifts that are set to impact the future of work. Our feeling is that many key terms and acronyms are used interchangeably across non-specialist media, giving rise to confusion around what exactly each term means. This list, therefore, is designed to explain as succinctly as possible each term and outline what that means for day-to-day living and working.
Just like the sector more widely, this section is constantly evolving and being updated, so be sure to check back regularly.
“Robotics deals with the design, construction, operation, and use of robots, as well as computer systems for their control, sensory feedback, and information processing. These technologies are used to develop machines that can substitute for humans.”.
'Results Only Work Environment' is a workplace approach where employees or workers are remunerated according to the results they deliver and not the hours they work.
Pioneered by Cali Ressler and Jody Thompson in the US, early adopters of the ROWE approach include Best Buy and Gap.
The approach offers optimal flexibility and lean practice, but requires significant trust leaps to work effectively.
Satisficing is a decision-making strategy or cognitive heuristic that entails searching through the available alternatives until an acceptability threshold is met. The term satisficing, a combination of satisfy and suffice, was introduced by Herbert A. Simon in 1956, although the concept was first posited in his 1947 book Administrative Behavior.
Simon used satisficing to explain the behaviour of decision makers under circumstances in which an optimal solution cannot be determined. He maintained that many natural problems are characterised by computational intractability or a lack of information, both of which preclude the use of mathematical optimisation procedures. Consequently, he observed in his Nobel Prize speech that "decision makers can satisfice either by finding optimum solutions for a simplified world, or by finding satisfactory solutions for a more realistic world. Neither approach, in general, dominates the other, and both have continued to co-exist in the world of management science."
According to W3C, the international standards consortium for the worldwide web (which coincidentally is run by Sir Tim Berners-Lee):
"The semantic web provides a common framework that allows data to be shared and reused across application, enterprise, and community boundaries".
In essence the evolution of the worldwide web towards the semantic web will allow computers to read and interpret data. In its current HTML form, data can be hard to interpret by computers but the semantic web will allow intelligent machines to read and decipher the data available.
Also known as shareconomy, collaborative consumption, collaborative economy, or peer economy, a common academic definition of the term refers to a hybrid market model (in between owning and gift giving) of peer-to-peer exchange.
Such transactions are often facilitated via community-based online services.
The Silent Generation is the demographic cohort that was born roughly from the mid-1920s to the early-to-mid 1940s. It precedes the baby boomer generation.
The Third Age is considered by many to be the ‘golden years’ of adulthood. It is generally defined as the span of time between retirement and the beginning of age-imposed physical, emotional, and cognitive limitations, and today would roughly fall between the ages of 65 and 80+. This is a period of adulthood when typically there are fewer responsibilities (e.g., career and family-rearing) than before and, when coupled with adequate financial resources and good physical and psychological health, offers rich possibilities for self-fulfilment, purposeful engagement, and completion.
This is the idea that at some stage, machines will become more intelligent than humans, through the creation of ever more powerful self-improvement cycles.
Having created their own “super-intelligence” the idea is that machines will ultimately dominate humans, challenging humanity as we know it.
Whether this will happen is a matter of opinion, of course, but certainly it’s something that preys on the minds of luminaries like Dr. Stephen Hawking and Elon Musk.
Transhumanism (abbreviated as H+ or h+) is an international intellectual movement that aims to transform the human condition by developing and making widely available sophisticated technologies to greatly enhance human intellect and physiology.
Ray Kurzweil, Peter Thiel and Peter Diamandis are all transhumanists.
Also referred to as 3BL or TBL, the Triple Bottom Line is an accounting framework that measures not just profit, as per traditional methodologies, but also social (people) and environmental (planet) impact. For this reason, it sometimes also known as 3Ps (people, profit and planet).
The term was coined by John Elkington in the early 1990s who argued that organisations should look beyond pure profit and loss to show their responsibility and accountability towards both people and planet. In this way a company can measure its true cost of doing business.
Also known as pervasive computing.
See Internet of Things.
“A universal basic income or UBI, (also called basic income guarantee, Citizen's Income, unconditional basic income, basic income or universal demogrant) is a form of social security in which all citizens or residents of a country receive a regular, unconditional sum of money, either from a government or some other public institution, independent of any other income. […] Basic income is often argued for by its advocates because of its potential to reduce poverty, or even eradicate poverty. The ability of basic income to eliminate poverty is based on the assumption that an unconditional income set above the poverty line will not change the poverty line by inflation or other effects.”
The Finnish government implemented a two-year pilot in January 2017 involving 2,000 subjects.
The merging of work and leisure activities.
The term was coined by American sociologist Dalton Conley and is a blending of the words work and leisure.
Wirearchy is the power structure created as the Information Age unfolded, disrupting hierarchical organisations and the fundamental construct of access to knowledge. In earlier eras, when information was scarce and access to information was power, organisations structured themselves along chains of power and authority, with those higher in the organisation having more knowledge and therefore more power. These structures disintegrated as the Internet made a huge spectrum of information and knowledge freely available.
The term wirearchy was coined in 1999 by Jon Husband, who defined it as "a dynamic flow of power and authority, based on information, trust, credibility, and a focus on results, enabled by interconnected technology and people". Hugh MacLeod illustrated the basic concept of wirearchy by showing links emanating from the classic hierarchical pyramid.
"Work–life balance is a concept including the proper prioritisation between work (career and ambition) and lifestyle (health, pleasure, leisure, family)."
“Zero-hours contracts and gig economy work and have similarities. Both treat workers as contractors and offer no guarantee of pay, but gig economy roles are normally paid per piece — such as a set rate to deliver a package or drive a fare to a location — while zero-hours contracts are paid hourly, but with no set minimum. Both are the result of companies trying to cut or limit staffing costs, and can leave workers unsure how much they'll earn.”