I recently spoke at the World Strategy Forum event in Seoul, where the theme was “The new rules: reframing capitalism”. Predictably, the discussion focused on global financial infrastructure. But, as one of the few non-economist speakers, I instead argued that employment/unemployment is even more affected by the changing nature of work – and the wildly accelerating effectiveness of technology, which is encroaching on activities that employ tens of millions of people, especially in the developed world.
This is, I believe, in the mid to long term, both the number one problem and the number one opportunity for businesses and wider society. But the specifics of what follows were triggered by the debate at the event and were eventually encapsulated in what I grandly call: “A human capital development manifesto at the enterprise and national government level”.
- Maximising what I’ll call “gross domestic development” of the workforce, driven at the level of the individual enterprise, is the primary source of growth, productivity, wealth creation and social stability.
- Development of “human capital” should always be the top priority – albeit a commandment all too often honoured in the breach. But this is an inescapable imperative in an age in which imaginative brain-work is de facto the only plausible survival strategy for individual enterprises of consequence and higher-wage nations in their entirety. Generic “brain-work”, the traditional and dominant white-collar activities that now employ the bulk of us, is increasingly undertaken by exponentially enhanced artificial intelligence applied at ever increasing speed.