Gattaca (1997) Photo: Wallup
In the future, we will be competing against medically-enhanced workers who can work longer and harder than us. Artificial intelligence will make it easier to monitor our every move in the office. This may sound like science fiction, but it’s a likely reality, according to a new report by professional services firm PricewaterhouseCoopers.
The report, which drew upon a team of science researchers and a survey of more than 10,000 workers based in China, Germany, India, the U.K., and the U.S., predicts that rapid advances in technology, resource scarcity, and population demographics are among the key forces that would radically shape the future of work by 2030.
According to PwC, these forces will result in four potential futures: one where “humans come first,” one where “innovation rules,” one where “companies care,” and one where “corporate is king.”
Report: “new breed of elite super-workers” will emerge in 2030
In the future world where corporations reign, PwC states that “human effort is maximised through sophisticated use of physical and medical enhancement techniques and equipment, and workers’ performance and wellbeing are measured, monitored and analysed at every step. A new breed of elite super-workers emerges.”
This is a world where performance is everything, and workers will need to create every advantage to stay ahead. This may sound like a stressful objective, but the majority of people surveyed welcomed the challenge.
Seventy percent of the workers surveyed said that they would undergo treatments to improve their body and mind if it would improve their chances of employment. This could be because we believe it’s up to us to improve our careers — even if that means pill-popping performance-enhancing drugs. Of those surveyed, 74% said it was their individual responsibility “to update their skills rather than relying on any employer.”
To visualize this cognitive-enhanced future, PwC created a mock news article reporting from 2030 that detailed the first large-scale use of brain-enhancing drugs in the workplace.
But you don’t need a fake news report to see this future; real news reports about augmented bodies in the office have existed for some time. Companies in the U.S. and Europe are already offering microchip implants to workers, so they can enter company buildings and get their chips from the vending machine with the wave of a hand.
PwC predicts that the idea of a cyborg workforce will go from science fiction novelty to mainstream in the next few decades.
“So [implants at work] are already possible and happening and people will use it socially to pay for things and to get on to buses and public transport. Why would they not 10 years later go, sure, put one in my brain to make me think harder or for longer?” Jon Williams, PwC’s people and organizations division leader told The Australian about its survey. “It’s just natural progression.”