“The future of how we live and work, our relationship with innovation, and our very construct for productivity and engagement, are overdue for a digital, physical, and hybrid renaissance,” futurist and “digital anthropologist” Brian Solis writes in the book’s forward. In a subtle and significant way, the passage sets the tone for the whole book.
While many business owners and workers may fear “change,” the renaissance was a period of explosive growth. And the future can be too.
The Augmented Workforce isn’t about how to resist or get through the impact that automation or artificial intelligence will have on work in the next few years, it’s about how businesses can use these technologies to improve themselves and their interactions with clients and customers.
“A belief inspired this book – the belief that technology will make this a better world for everyone,” Hackl wrote in the book’s introduction.
The book describes the future as being “protopian.” “The world won’t be perfect and happy, but it won’t be an abysmal dystopia either.” Still, navigating into this future world takes some understanding and forethought, and that’s what The Augmented Workforce presents:
“New technology creates new opportunities, and if you can focus on that rather than fearing change, your future will be ripe for the digital picking.”
The Ultimate Next-Generation Computer
In the first two chapters, The Augmented Workforce begins to foster the idea that automation is not the enemy of work. The next two chapters introduce the “six pillars” on which the future is built: the Internet of Things, artificial intelligence, cloud computing, blockchain, extended reality, and 5G.
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These technologies get a brief history and a handy analogy: “the ultimate next-generation computer.”
The Internet of Things makes up the new inputs, artificial intelligence is our new apps, the cloud is our new hard drive, blockchain is the new log-in and password, XR is the new display, and 5G is the new network. This analogy helps non-tech experts think about what these technologies do, but it also provides a framework for thinking about how they work together:
“Our collective hunger for efficiency, convenience, and great experiences are driving seemingly fragmented technologies to sync, fuse, and supercharge the way we benefit from data. The worker of today is being transformed into a super-being.”
The Meat and Potatoes of “The Augmented Workforce”
The Augmented Workforce bookWith the technologies and their convergence established, the middle part of the book explores how these technologies are already being used in augmented workforces. The book covers 12 vertical markets and seven horizontal segments. It also draws on the voices of industry executives that have already incorporated these emerging technologies into their processes.
“John and I aren’t experts at everything, so for a chapter on architecture we were wondering how we could add value,” Hackl told ARPost.
These real industry stories also helped to support the narrative of the futurist authors with the testimony of people living and working very much in the present. After so much time spent by futurists saying that the future is coming, these stories establish that the future is already here.
“It was important to us that we reflect the sophistication and diversity of the work that is being done,” Buzzell told ARPost. “We wanted to show new people to the community that it’s finally being done.”
The COVID-19 pandemic plays a role throughout the book, but the middle section begins to explore how COVID-driven adoption has no reason to go anywhere. Buzzell said that necessity is often the mother of invention, but in the case of these technologies, it was the “mother of acceleration.”
“We started writing the book before COVID,” said Hackl. “There was some rewriting that had to happen to make sure that COVID was acknowledged, the situation and how it accelerated our industry had to be acknowledged.”
Each section also ends with actionable bullet points on moving forward with exploring how these emerging technologies can change the reader’s workflow or process within their industry.
Predictions and Directions
The final section of the main body of The Augmented Workforce provides predictions for the near-future, as well as approaches to begin moving into the future. This section brings together a number of the recurring themes from earlier sections of the book including changing consumer expectations, and the changing ability and necessity to learn and relearn skills.
This final section also predicts that the metaverse will be built on the real world, and that changing ethical considerations may have the potential to polarize consumers:
“Since companies will have access to even more data in the augmented world than they do today, debates about privacy concerns will heat up… The digital divide will take shape in a new split between privacy-savvy, digitally minimal consumers, and those who want the convenience that technology provides.”
The main body of The Augmented Workforce ends with “The Five Commandments of Technology and Business” before concluding there are also heft end-notes for those looking to take a deeper dive into the industry insights detailed in the rest of the book:
“Many technology books focus on building excitement for the future. This book gives you the tools to act on that excitement.”
Hackl and Buzzell on Writing “The Augmented Workforce”
The Augmented Workforce is about moving forward. Its mentions of the pandemic simultaneously make it a snapshot of its time. However, Hackl warns that the pandemic is not entirely behind us (although sometimes it may feel that way) and Buzzell warns that the integrated and automated future lies ahead of us (although sometimes it may not feel that way).
“There were several challenges in writing the book, especially when you’re writing about something that changes so quickly,” said Hackl. “We all feel like we’re coming out of the pandemic right now but there are variants, I no longer make any bets.”
“It’s important for those of us in the industry to recognize that it’s going to be a while. We’ve all been waiting for this magical moment where you live your life as an avatar and the world is completely augmented,” said Buzzell. “That may be twenty years away. So, what do we do now?”
The Augmented Workforce isn’t going out of date any time soon, with technologies like 5G still on the horizon for most of us. As Buzzell points out, “it’s still early.”