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Steve Jobs Predicted the Future of Work

Topics: Work Culture
You'd be hard pressed to find someone who would deny that Steve Jobs changed the world. Having both Michael Fassbender and Ashton Kutcher star in varying versions of your biopic isn't necessarily the qualifying factor, but it's nothing to blink at. And while he wasn't the man behind the code, a recent Business Insider article reminds us that he was something of a Nostradamus when it came to the future of the American workforce.

You’d be hard pressed to find someone who would deny that Steve Jobs changed the world. Having both Michael Fassbender and Ashton Kutcher star in varying versions of your biopic isn’t necessarily the qualifying factor, but it’s nothing to blink at. And while he wasn’t the man behind the code, a recent Business Insider article reminds us that he was something of a Nostradamus when it came to the future of the American workforce.

steve jobs

(Photo Credit: David Geller/Flickr)

This highlighted Wired interview, which is now 20 years old, paints a startlingly accurate picture of the reality that we now live in. While not everything that Jobs said (namely, that the internet wouldn’t be life-changing) is perfectly prophetic, it really is scary just how right he was — especially in how the internet has affected workers.

Do You Know What You're Worth?

Here are some of the ways that this legendary man so perfectly predicted life would be different for employees in the internet age.

The Startup Revolution

When Jobs said, “Large companies not paying attention to change will get hurt,” he was unknowingly referring to bookstores and other companies that missed the boat on e-readers, and didn’t go the way of an Amazon type. But beneath that, he was also predicting the rise of startups: 20-somethings with passion and grand ideas, taking matters into their own hands, and running the sort of small business that have become the “unicorns” of Silicon Valley.

The Fall of the Middleman

In a similar light, he said: “The best way to think of the Web is as a direct-to-customer distribution channel, whether it’s for information or commerce. It bypasses all middlemen. … The elimination of them is going to be profound.” On a market-changing direct-to-customer level, this is where a company like Netflix has thrived.

Not only are they bypassing traditional broadcasting networks, but also production studios — making their own movies and TV shows, and then delivering them straight to our laptops, all from their own platform.

The Open Office

At one point in the interview, Jobs referred to the potential of the internet as a “leveling of hierarchy.” Undoubtedly, most readers will immediately think of the image of an open-plan office, much like what Mark Zuckerberg has done at Facebook.

It’s a prime example of how a cultural change brought on by the internet has affected the way we even conduct business on a daily basis.

The Rise of the Remote Worker

In another instance of predicting far more than he could have imagined, Jobs talked about the proliferation of remote work. He said, “The minute that I don’t have to manage my own storage, and the minute I live primarily in a connected versus a stand-alone world, there are new options for metaphors.”

It’s a simple fact that with the internet, cloud storage, messaging technologies, there’s no reason workers wouldn’t spend more time working from home.

Blurred Lines of Work and Life

Finally, on a more somber note, Jobs inherently understood the danger of information overload: “Most people get far more information than they can assimilate anyway.” And how true that has become, as we spend more and more hours in front of screens. Our phone’s email capabilities keep us connected at all times, and in turn, the lines between work and home — and the traditional 9-to-5 — have been forever blurred.

Tell Us What You Think

Are you currently reading this on an Apple device? Are you so strongly Android-only that you can’t even bring yourself to acknowledge this interview as real? Share your strong opinions in the comments below, or join the conversation on Twitter!

Peter Swanson
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Joe
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Joe

The online class room has mixed results. If the class is a fact class the results for the student can be good. If the class is a subject of art, business management, entrepreneurship etc. the results have been mixed at best. You can probably learn history online but learning to be a sculptor, surgeon, or entrepreneur probably won’ work..

Majarlika
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Majarlika

Teachers are slowly been phasing out! Student attitudes and treatment and interaction in the classrroom are also changing rapidly and radically as students are compiling and exhibiting behaviours of not needing a teacher thus, they are thinking that you tube or internet is a convenient replacement of teachers and classroom! Scary but it is happening!

John
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John

Steve Job’s prediction of bypassing the middleman with direct connection between consumer and distributor is hardley anything short of common reaction. Of course this would be expected, but what we really didn’t see coming was the impact on the common working middleman who pocessed a skill set like a plummer or car mechanic being replace by a DIY video. We can literally go on the internet and Google how to fix ” ….” and watch step by step videos on YouTube to make a repair, order parts directly and save some money by DIY. Luckly, some prefer not to get… Read more »

Craig
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Craig

Indeed Jobs did have the insight for how the internet would change workforce. For those workers who are dedicated to their jobs, there’s not doubt that they can be more productive and remain connected – perhaps somewhat more than is healthy. For many many others though, the ability to work from home is viewed as an entitlement and frankly an excuse to be less productive. Sure, “I was logged in and responding to emails”, but was really doing laundry, cutting the grass, etc while the TV was on. Monitoring remote productivity of less quantitative/objective job functions unfortunately requires addl supervisory… Read more »

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