A World Without Work Book Summary - A World Without Work Book explained in key points
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A World Without Work summary

Technology, Automation, and How We Should Respond

4.2 (123 ratings)
23 mins

Brief summary

A World Without Work by Daniel Susskind presents a thought-provoking analysis of how technology is rapidly replacing human labor, and the consequences it poses for the future of employment. It highlights the urgent need to find new ways to distribute wealth and provide meaning in a world where work is becoming scarce.

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    A World Without Work
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    Machines will replace some jobs – but they’ll also complement others.

    Machines are taking over. You’ve probably heard that before, right? And it’s not hard to see where the argument comes from – every year brings new technological innovations. As computers and robots become smarter and smarter, will humans become unnecessary? 

    Of course, real life is not quite so simple, so no need to fear! Machines will never take all our jobs. Their effect on the labor market is much more nuanced.

    The key message here is: Machines will replace some jobs – but they’ll also complement others. 

    Fear of technological change is nothing new. Centuries ago, at the start of the Industrial Revolution in Britain, weavers destroyed early machines. These people – luddites, as they became known – feared for their jobs. And they did have some reason to worry; rapid technological change in their industry caused massive upheaval. 

    But was that change all bad? 

    Well, while some workers did suffer, others benefited. If a low-skilled worker learned how to use the new machines, his output increased massively and, eventually, so did his earnings. 

    New technology is often complementary. While it replaces some workers, it makes other workers more productive. How? By helping them with some of the more difficult tasks.

    For example, algorithms that can process legal documents haven’t replaced lawyers. Instead, they freed up their time for more creative work like writing, problem-solving, and face-to-face meetings with clients.

    This increased production leads to the second benefit of automation. Think about a country’s economy as a pie that everybody needs to share. Sure, machines do change how the shares in this pie are distributed. But they also make the pie itself so much bigger. 

    Not convinced? Well, ATMs – automated teller machines – are a good example. When they were first introduced, people feared that they would completely replace bank staff. 

    But let’s look at what actually happened. In the last 30 years, the number of ATMs in the USA quadrupled. At the same time, the number of human bank tellers also rose – by about 20 percent. ATMs replaced tellers when it came to handing out cash, sure. But they also freed up humans to give financial advice and offer personalized support.

    The economy grew, and overall demand for banks and financial advice increased. All told, the average number of tellers per bank dropped by about a third over the last few decades. But the number of banks in which tellers could get a job rose by as much as 43 percent. 

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    What is A World Without Work about?

    A World Without Work (2020) is an exploration into how artificial intelligence will bring unemployment to so many industries – and why that doesn’t have to be a bad thing. The author outlines the history of technological progress and explains how new capabilities will allow for unprecedented productivity. Yes, many jobs will become irrelevant, but, as a society, we can ensure that everybody will be better off in this new world.

    A World Without Work Review

    A World Without Work (2020) by Daniel Susskind explores the impact of advancing technology on employment and offers thought-provoking insights for the future. Here's why this book is worth reading:

    • By highlighting the challenges and opportunities brought about by automation, the book provides a comprehensive understanding of the changing nature of work.
    • Through a combination of extensive research, case studies, and interviews, Susskind presents a compelling argument about the potential consequences of technological advancements.
    • With its balanced perspective and thought-provoking analysis, the book ensures that readers will not find it boring, while encouraging them to reflect on the implications of a world without work.

    Who should read A World Without Work?

    • Forecasters
    • Technophiles and luddites alike
    • Anyone curious about the future of work

    About the Author

    Daniel Susskind is the coauthor of The Future of the Professions, named one of the best books of 2016 by the Financial Times, New Scientist, and the Times Literary Supplement. He is a fellow in economics at Balliol College, Oxford. Previously, he was a policy adviser for the British Strategy Unit and a senior adviser to the UK government.

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    A World Without Work FAQs 

    What is the main message of A World Without Work?

    A world without work explores the impact of technology on the future of jobs and raises important questions about automation and unemployment.

    How long does it take to read A World Without Work?

    The reading time for A World Without Work varies depending on the reader, but it typically takes several hours. The Blinkist summary can be read in just 15 minutes.

    Is A World Without Work a good book? Is it worth reading?

    A World Without Work is a must-read for anyone interested in the future of work and the influence of technology. It offers valuable insights and thought-provoking arguments.

    Who is the author of A World Without Work?

    The author of A World Without Work is Daniel Susskind.

    What to read after A World Without Work?

    If you're wondering what to read next after A World Without Work, here are some recommendations we suggest:
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    • The Technology Trap by Carl Benedikt Frey
    • Retrain Your Brain by Seth J. Gillihan
    • Words on the Move by John McWhorter
    • Dopamine Nation by Anna Lembke
    • The Future of Capitalism by Paul Collier
    • Material World by Ed Conway
    • The Design of Everyday Things by Donald A. Norman
    • Supercommunicators by Charles Duhigg
    • Human Compatible by Stuart Russell