The Future of Work


“Democracy and freedom are coming to business, says Tom Malone. And it’s all because of technology. Malone teaches at MIT’s Sloan School of Management and runs something called the Center for Coordination Science, which studies how technology changes the way people work. His new book, The Future of Work, posits that the central transformative development of our time is the radically decreased cost of communications caused by the Internet, wireless voice and data, and cheap long distance, among other new technologies. It is all fundamentally changing the nature of work, Malone says: “This change may be as important for business as the change to democracy has been for government.” He stopped by the office the other day to talk about the book, published this month, and his ideas.

Malone sees a parallel between the evolution of human society and the evolution of business. “For millenia,” he says, “all human societies were organized as small, autonomous, egalitarian groups called bands. Then we saw the rise of bigger and bigger, more centralized societies called kingdoms. Only in the last 200 years have we seen the rise on a large scale of the third way of organizing human society-democracy.” Each of those stages, Malone says, can be explained by a change in a single factor–the cost of communication. In his view, writing is what enabled hierarchically organized kingdoms to arise. Printing led to democracy.”

The Future of Work: An ‘Apprentice’-style Office?
FORTUNE, April 14, 2004

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