THE FUTURE OF WORK
PIDC recognizes that current and near-future changes in technology will transform the nature of jobs and, as a result, change the built environment and land use patterns.
As a part of PIDC’s 2020 strategic objectives, we committed to engaging in a city-wide conversation about the future of work and its impacts in Philadelphia, with a particular focus on industrial land. We seek to better understand what jobs and industries will remain both people-intensive and land-intensive in the future, and how many different organizations, businesses, entrepreneurs, policy makers, and communities can utilize that information to better plan today for what that future will look like.
PIDC engaged the Urban Land Institute of Philadelphia’s Technology and Competitiveness Council as a lead partner in this initiative. Together, we have convened a steering committee of external stakeholders to help us think about this topic and what some next steps and outcomes might look like. In addition to convening thought-leaders and stakeholders, this initiative also includes a research component currently spearheaded by two student-led teams from Temple University and the University of Pennsylvania.
For the first event around this initiative, Urban Land Institute and PIDC hosted a panel presentation at the Free Library of Philadelphia on February 14 to explore how technology like automation, A.I., robotics, precision medicine, and advancement in ecommerce and logistics will impact our region and our use of industrial land.
Future of Work Event
The event kicked off with keynote speaker, Susan Lund, director of research at the McKinsey Global Institute, sharing her research surrounding the topic. Susan expressed that there is a large portion of employee time spent today in physical and basic cognitive skills, but in the future, time spent on these skills is going to decrease while skills such as technology and social and emotional intelligence will grow. “Machines today are not only as good as humans [at certain tasks], they’re better than humans, actually. Superhuman! However, the future isn’t going to be a jobless one. The jobs will be different, and humans need to adapt,” Susan said.
She mentioned that businesses and entrepreneurs, government agencies and policy-makers, NGOs, foundations, educational institutions, industry associations, and labor unions also have a role to play in the future of work by supporting workforce transitions through retraining employees, increasing jobs, and making the hiring process more skills-based and faster. Susan suggested there’s a future where people are retrained and redeployed, where they learn to do different things, and where wages on the lowest end go up because people are doing higher-valued tasks. “Now, how do we get to that step in the future? I think it’s our choice,” Susan said. “The choices we makes as a society — whether it’s cities, states, or the national level — will determine where we get.”
The event continued with two expert panels that shared their unique perspectives on how the future of work will shape our landscape and how we should respond in order to stay competitive nationally and globally. PIDC’s Chief Strategy and Communications Officer, Anne Nevins, moderated. The first panel with experts from Comcast, University of Pennsylvania, Cabaletta Bio, and Militia Hill Ventures dove into the technology and innovations that are changing the future of work. The second panel, with leaders from Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission, Liberty Property Trust, The ITEM Ventures, Makerhoods, and KSS Architects, tackled the implications for Philadelphia in the built environment and beyond.
Panelist Dr. Vijay Kumar, professor of mechanical engineering and applied mechanics at the University of Pennsylvania, thinks we should turn the focus onto another aspect in technology. “To me, it’s not about A.I. because I’m actually very skeptical that A.I. will replace humans. We should be thinking about I.A. or ‘Intelligence Augmentation’,” Dr. Kumar said. “The fact that you can augment intelligence, that is here today. That is really about how we think about jobs [and] how we think about training.”
Join the discussion. Share your thoughts on the future of work by tweeting your ideas with #FutureofWorkPHL and #ULIPHL.