Book Review  

Book Review: Humanity Works

Book Review: Humanity Works

Humanity Works: Merging Technologies and People for the Workforce of the Future by Alexandra Levit. Published by Kogan Page.

Alexandra Levit’s Humanity Works presents a thoughtful, positive vision of work in 2030.

In 200 well-organised pages, Ms Levit explores diverse trends in technology and social change and weaves them together to paint a picture of what work will be like a decade from now.

It is an optimistic picture with human creativity at the core and technology used to empower people rather than replace them. 

There are some interesting ideas on roles for humans as explainers of artificial intelligence magic, on the obligation and ability of workers to continuously self-learn and on some possible new directions and applications for the gig economy.

Each chapter includes a practical action plan to help business leaders prepare for a very different workplace from the ones we are familiar with.

A fascinating chapter on the evolution of work structures suggests that virtual teams will rapidly become the norm and that they will form, complete a project and disband at lightning speed.

This “swarming”, as Ms Levit terms it, will demand some very particular human traits and will change the essential nature of relationships between co-workers.

There will be no time for long-term mentoring; formal reporting structures will evaporate; and autonomy and assertiveness will become essential qualities for a successful career.

At a mechanical level, this transformation is being made possible by the enormous advances underway in some key technologies, specifically augmented reality and telepresence.

If all this sounds a bit too science-fiction, there are sections on a more familiar subject matter, often with a novel take on their potential workplace relevance – I especially liked the idea of applying design thinking to employee experience.

Interestingly, there is one macro societal change with huge implications for the world of work that Ms Levit does not explore: increased lifespan.

This is a strange omission as it would add weight to some of the predictions around the demise of long-term careers in favour of more episodic work – the appeal of lifetime service fades somewhat if you are faced with a 200-year lifespan.

Personally, I find the picture this book paints rather scary. Reducing work to microscopic units of productivity with no time for people to form strong relationships seems to reduce the role of humans to insects – the swarm analogy is very apposite.

Whatever you think of the conclusion though, there is no denying that this is a thought-provoking read that pulls together a kaleidoscope of ideas and arranges them into one coherent vision of the workplace of the future.

Whether it is a dystopian or utopian vision depends on your viewpoint.

Kevin Okell is managing director of Altus