The Future of Employment

Today, the idea of “social” is encoded into every one of our major industries. “Social” encapsulates not just the image we want to project to the world, but also our (formerly private) behavioral choices. With the touch of a button, we can view someone’s choices around education, banking, shopping, driving, dining, music, housing, or sex. Others can just as easily see our choices, too.

“Image-creation” is already an economic engine: billions of people in the world have Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and/or TikTok accounts that we use to curate our own image for the world—and to judge others.

But the full implications of mass-adopted social technologies on our day-to-day lives are still being understood. The Future of Employment explores the possibility of a near-term reality where our holistic digital footprint is no longer seen as a series of personal, semi-private, quickly-forgotten “time capsules,” but instead is used as a cumulative, “objective” predictor of student and employee potential.

A social-technology-driven job market is inevitable. What are the costs of it becoming a reality? Who will be included, and who will be left behind? And how will the possibility of this future shape human behavior and interactions?

We view design as a strategic mechanism to explore the future. Let’s explore what the Future of Employment may look like:

Deep Fake Video

Soon: Applying for a job where “look” is everything? Pitching a talk to a high-profile conference? With Deep Fake Video Interviews, just click for a real-time look upgrade! As deep fake video technology becomes more pervasive and accessible, it won’t just appear as filters on Instagram or pranks on Twitter. In the quest to maintain a competitive edge, candidates will start using simple, commercial video filters to alter their appearance during virtual interviews or in highly competitive pitches.

Later: Candidates for remote jobs use deep fake interviews to secure a job…without their company ever knowing their true identity. Applicants search out a company’s hiring priorities and change their appearance accordingly. Are you a tattoo-sleeved eccentric Marxist—and you know your ideal company is looking for a conservative-leaning preppy to lead the team? Well, maybe that “person” is you. Who has to know?

Large corporations with global offices go on massive hiring binges. Their HR teams are strapped for time and zero in on the most immediately charismatic candidate videos. The problem? All of those videos are deep fakes, created by AI, and the “candidates” they hired are bots with deep-faked social profiles.

One-Click Apply

Soon: Time-consuming job applications are a thing of the past. Employers at large-scale companies have long used algorithms to weed out candidates—now candidates can do the same with potential employers. A new technology, One-Click Apply, will comb a company’s website, social handles, and the social accounts of employees to create an “ideal profile” of what the company really looks for in a candidate. Upload your resume and a generic cover letter to the system and click on any company you are interested in. One-Click Apply will then instantly generate a version of your resume and cover letter that emphasizes the company-priority attributes most likely to get you the job. Just find a job, and click “Apply!”

Later: One-Click Apply will develop speech-recognition software to cover your phone screen, too. They’ll never know they are talking to a bot!

Who You Know / Corporate Influencer

Soon: The U.S. job market will be freelancers. In a bid to get noticed by contracting gigs, freelancers will increasingly be flexing not only their unique perspective and skills for the job, but their social network — “who you know.” In a bid to mimic trends and stay competitive, companies will adopt Who You Know as a required part of the hiring process: along with your resume and cover letter, expect to submit your social profiles. Who You Know will rank candidates based on their projected ability to spread messages virally. Overwhelming preference will be given to job candidates with high Who You Know scores.

Later: Who You Know will make it easy to set end-of-year reviews for employees on how they “use” their network. The service will measure how many posts the employee made about work, and how many of them were positive, followed corporate branding language, etc. If employees start losing followers, they can expect to be put on a performance review plan.

Employee Glassdoor

Soon: Remember that feeling of opportunity that comes with walking into a new job? Free from previous bosses, reviews, and petty interactions with co-workers, your new role gives you a chance to start again and set up an entirely new work identity. Not so fast: a new Employee Glassdoor review system is coming with you. After you left your previous job, your previous employer shared your feedback and performance reviews on Employee Glassdoor—and gave you a paltry three stars. Do you have a pattern of checking out early? Or maybe you’ve “thought for yourself” one too many times? Don’t be surprised when a potential employer pulls up a trend in your reviews and asks you to explain yourself—or skips the interview completely.

Bring Your Best Self to Work

Soon: Who wants to risk missing out on an interview, or a job, because a company checks out your social media presence and preemptively decides you “aren’t a culture fit?” Applicant Incognito will clear up your unpolished past and transform you into the pristine digital citizen every company is looking for. With the click of a button, “compromising” posts are archived, photos removed from online accounts…and followers, connections, and friends are dropped.

Mandatory Employment Scholarships

Later: As student debt and the price of education increases, the value promise of the university system continues to erode. Wise to the cost of education, tomorrow’s students will be looking for avenues to achieve a set of credentials without the crippling debt that has plagued students before them.

Enter “mandatory employment” scholarships. Instead of shelling out thousands in scholarships, universities will partner with employers to offer another path to a debt-free diploma — the most high-performing students will have the option to pre-select a company, and commit to working there for a minimum of 4 years, in lieu of accruing student debt. If they fail to complete the 4 years, they owe the school prorated expenses…and the company the cost of their lost productivity.

These specific scenarios may or may not happen. But each one of these scenarios are answers to very real, complex problems of today…and as such are certainly possible.

At Modernist, we’re in the business of identifying existing problems, and exploring the implications of provocative solutions. What are the implications of each these “solutions” above? Will our future look like these scenarios, or can we design something better? That’s up to all of us to decide.

Each month, the Modernist Studio team explores a different speculative future and Design’s role in the ever-changing landscape that surrounds us. If this kind of content interests you, sign up for our email list to receive Design Futures in your inbox. (We won’t ever share your info or spam you.)