Thoughts on the Future of Work

Lately I’ve been following Penelope Trunk’s thoughts on the future of work, as well as Richard Florida’s thoughts on the future of cities  (See also All About Cities, an excellent blog on…cities!).  Add to that Jamais Cascio’s thoughts on the Metaverse, and it’s a lot of food for thought.


Here are Penelope’s predictions:


1.) The end of gender disparity
The end of the stay-at-home parent
The end of the grind
The end of “work friends”
The end of office life
The end of consulting
The end of hierarchy

I’m not so sure.  Coming as I do from Pittsburgh, a conservative town, most of this stuff is FAR from reality.  Even with Gen Y coming in to the workplace, very little has changed.  And most of the X’ers I know just adapt – indeed, are co-opted – into the conservative culture.  Five days in the cube, with extra hours when necessary.  No special perks or cool offices.  And everyone goes home at the end of the day and work and home are completely separate arenas, as far as friends, anyway.  Believe me, hierarchy is alive and well here.  Perhaps that’s part of the reason we have outmigration.

Perhaps in tech firms it’s different, but as far as I can see in the engineering industry and the banking industry nothing has changed here.


When it comes to parenting and work, most households I know have both parents working full time jobs.  A few, like mine, have one parent working while the other stays home.  We pay the price in that we can’t afford some of the things that others can – for example, we’re still in an apartment although we’re saving for a house.  It also leads to friction since the stay at home parent feels like they work more than a full time job and can’t understand why the wage-earning parent wants to relax in the evening since they don’t get a chance to relax.


I want to explore this more in the coming days.  Telecommuting is rare here (as a regular practice, anyway) since most employers are conservative Boomer types.  Gil Schwartz wrote an article in Men’s Health Best Life magazine where he demolishes the idea of telecommuting.  He questions why he would want an employee that doesn’t want to be in the office.  It’s a bit tongue in cheek, and totally opposed to Penelope and Ryan/Ryan’s Gen Y thoughts, but it rings true to me, at least here in Pittsburgh.


What are your thoughts?  Do you see a shift to more telecommuting?  Do you see a blending of work life and home life?  Are your friends at work and your friends at home the same or separate?  Is your organization flat or pretty hierarchical?  Let me know in the comments!


Guest Blog – James and the Urban Experience

Scott’s note:  James and I have been friends for almost two decades.  We were friends before it was “cool” to have an interracial friendship.  We’ve grown because of it, in many ways.  James grew up in Wilkinsburg, a distressed area of Pittsburgh, and worked his way out and is now the father of two awesome little boys.

James and I have had many conversations about God, and also on racism, what it’s like to be black, and so on.  Helped open up the eyes of a suburban white boy to the urban world of minorities.  I value his friendship! 

  I wanted to share some of his stuff here.  Check out his blog, too!

I drove into Wilkinsburg Memorial Day. I noticed the same garbage in the same place along the main street. Two women of the night plyed their trade in broad daylight.

Their pimp monitored them a block away. He moves swiftly for senior with a pronounced limp. I wonder if  they get holiday pay? The union steward in me I guess.

In my heart I judge the young men on bicycles, circling cars like carrion, expert eyes pick out the suburban white Guys looking for drugs. 

Why dont these brothas clean up their town? 

I consider making a statement by picking up the trash myself. But no, I really dont have the time. Truthfully I’m not comfortable with parking my car. What if it gets vandalized?

 I stop judging the people around me. I consider myself; Am I a coward? Am I a hypocrite? Am I just lazy?


poem about religion in pittsburgh 

A knock on my door from an earnest Jehovah Witness 

a bean pie from an angry black Muslim 

a postcard from a zealous protestant conservative 

a bumper sticker praising libreral catholics 

Its great to be American!

What I’ve Read Lately


Thomas Mellon and His Times, by Thomas A Mellon

This man was really something.  He was the Irish patriarch of the Mellon banking clan.  I don’t agree with everything he says but he definitely believed in hard work.  He also was very active in raising his children.  He made his fortune by taking his earnings from the law profession and investing in real estate and construction of houses, as well as coal mines and the like.  Some railroads and stuff.  And then the bank.  Very conservative, thorough, and detail oriented was Mr. Mellon. 

Surprisingly, Thomas Mellon states that you don’t have to be a salesman to be successful in business.  He was however, apparently a master networker.  He knew he was going to be a lawyer and met most of his future clients working in the prothonotary’s office, though.  The legacy he left to his heirs is amazing in that it has lasted a long time. 

Spook Country, by William Gibson 

Not as good as Pattern Recognition, but interesting nevertheless.  Learned about some interesting concepts, such as Spatially Tagged Hypermedia, or Locative Art.  Some other interesting things: 

  • “Music today is atemporal.” 
  • “Intelligence is advertising turned inside out.”
  • “The holding of knowledge in dignified privacy helps ensure desired results.” 

And oh yeah, about shipping containers, so I eventually want to read The Box: How the Shipping Container Made the World Smaller and the World Economy Bigger by Marc Levinson.  Anybody ever notice how in the first episode of Firefly the crew of Serenity is at the Eavesdown Docks on Persephone and surrounded by shipping containers? (See pic at top of post from Cool! 

The Golden Ratio, by Mario Livio 

An interesting book describing Phi, which is a mathematical ratio that somehow shows up naturally in nature, in music, in math.  I’ve always been interested in the Knights Templar, who apparently were interested in so-called “Sacred Geometry.”  Livio debunks the use of the ratio in many architectural wonders such as the Great Pyramid as well as in Renaissance art.  It’s doubtful, I suppose, that the Templars knew of it since the ratio made an appearance in Europe in the Renaissance and after their time, although they may have learned of it from the Arabs (who learned it from the Greeks!) and then kept it secret.  If so, Livio doesn’t comment on it.

Virtual Light, by William Gibson 

Part of his Bridge Trilogy.  The scenes involving the security guard, Rydell, weren’t as interesting as those involving Chevette and Yamazaki.  His portrayal of the squatters’ community on the bridge was great.  I liked how it shows that a neighborhood tends to grow organically and not by top down control.  (Ahem – I’m looking at you, Pittsburgh Government!  Luke, are you listening?) 

Made to Stick, by Chip Heath and Dan Heath 

An interesting read on how to make messages more interesting.  There are six characteristics of “sticky” messages – Simple, unexpected, concrete, credible, emotional, stories – the acronym is SUCCES.  The idea is to incorporate as many of these characteristics into your message as possible.  A perfect example is how urban legends stick in your mind years later but corporate initiatives don’t.  There’s more on Wikipedia and their website, but I recommend reading the book for both the examples and for the summary in the back of the book.


The Chris Brogan 100 on Social Media

Although I’ve been using the Internet since 1992, I was slow to join the Social Media bandwagon.  I first started reading blogs in 2004 or so, and I joined MySpace and LinkedIn in October of 2005.  I started blogging in August of 2006 and joined Facebook around the same time.  Still, it’s been an interesting, incredible, and rewarding journey since.

I met Chris Brogan in April of 2007 at Bootcamp Pittsburgh.  Chris has the enviable job of spreading the social media gospel by attending Bootcamps and Podcamps all around the country.  His blog is always interesting and informative.

For his next 100 posts, he plans to help people:

grow the value of your social media and social networking efforts. I will post specific strategies, tactics, tips, and resources to help you develop your skills and abilities in these areas, particularly insofar as these might help you develop your personal brand, build business for yourself or your organization, or otherwise perhaps be helpful to what interests you.  He’s currently accepting suggestions and requests for those 100 posts, so go over and check it out – and join the conversation!