A retrospective on

The History of Work

Welcome to 2020

You've made it to a new decade of work and life. Buckle up because it'll be like no other that's come before it. Things have changed so much in just a few decades, influencing how we approach our work in ways you can only see when you stop and take a look back. What has changed, what hasn't, and what does the future of work hold?

1950s illustration

The future of work in the 1950s

Work less, get paid more. Aldous Huxley, author of Brave New World, argued that by the year 2000 technology and automation would make workers richer and more productive. Since then we’ve seen productivity boom, but the average worker's salary has yet to catch up.

The future of work in the 1960s

In a 1964 interview with the BBC, science fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke nailed almost all of his predictions for the year 2014. He predicted the use of wireless communications, making us “in instant contact with each other, wherever we may be,” as well as robotic surgery, only missing his prediction that workers would no longer commute to their offices and travel “only for pleasure”.

The future of work in the 1970s

A computer could edit documents, draw bar charts, toggle between software programs, and pull up documents and drawings from stored memory.

from a 1970s Xerox conference on the future of work

The future of work in the 1990s

In 1999, science fiction writer David Gerrold predicted the modern smartphone with eerie accuracy, describing something that would be “a pocket organiser, a beeper, a calculator, a digital camera, a pocket tape recorder, a music player, and a color television.”

2000s illustration

The future of work in the 2000s

In 2003, consultancy firm Accenture released a video called “The Office of Tomorrow” that debuted a new technology to continuously track employees through the use of geolocation. Ten years later, this concept has come to life at a handful of American companies, prompting privacy concerns.

2010s illustration

The future of work in the 2010s

AI and robotics will create more jobs, not mass unemployment — as long as we responsibly guide innovation.

The majority of the U.S. workforce will freelance by 2027.

Stephane Kasriel, CEO of Upwork, writing for the World Economic Forum in 2017