Professional investors, in the form of venture capitalists, do indeed listen to futurists. At least, they do here in Silicon Valley. That doesn't mean they follow them to the letter. But they do pay attention and take what they say into account, because some futurists have a handle on some trends. If you've ever listened to some venture capitalists talk about their investments, you'd think some of them were futurists.
It's easy to make fun of futurists. They often get things wrong. But I agree with Cabe: there are many technologies that have taken markets and industries by surprise. Not only the cell phone itself, but the technologies developed for it, or adapted to that platform, that have then influenced lots of other industries. The cell phone camera is a good example: the huge volumes have influence faster development of CMOS image sensors and driven performance up and prices down. This has, in turn, affected the entire machine vision industry.
The flaw in Frey's thinking, at least for me, is the divide especially as a manufacturing goal of high volume, low cost products versus offerings that are hyper-individualized and hyper-customizable. There is definitely a need for the latter but that step adds intervening intelligence, time and expense. Not sure that will pave the way for a new era in manufacturing except in low quantity items where the value of the customization is high.
@Dave: Yes, I agree with you. There is a huge value in having the vast product knowledge of an experienced worker. Unfortunately, many of the executive decision makers do not have a complete appreciation of this and do not have this perception. As a result, many experienced workers have been sent out the door (along with their unique product knowledge that they carry).
I do think that a natural limit will occur, but am concerned that the pendulum will swing too far before it settles back to the correct balance.
@Greg: It's true that there is a trend towards shorter-term employment, but I think it has natural limits, which we are rapidly approaching. Where I work, there are a lot of guys who have worked for the company for 30 or even 40 years. There is a huge value in having such a vast repository of product knowlege. On the other hand, since most of these employees have never worked for any other company, they may lack the perspective that someone who has changed jobs every 2.5 years would have.
It's important to have a balance of experienced long-term employees, along with fresh-faced youngsters with new ideas, and folks who have moved around who can provide an outside perspective.
If all of your employees are temporary contractors, you're going to have to re-invent the wheel many times, because there will be no continuity in your organization. This will be enormously ineffecient.
There is a natural equilibrium, somewhere between guaranteed lifetime employment and craigslist's "gigs" section. Hopefully, we'll find it.
One trend in the article I did agree with was the description of more 'jobs or projects' during one's lifetime. After graduating from college, my father worked at 3 different companies before retiring. As stated in the article, workers in my generation can expect to work for many more companies than this. I expect my kid's generation to work for even a higher number of different companies in their lifetime if this trend continues.
From my perspective, at this point it appears that many companies view people as knowledge resources that can be activated or deactivated as needed. Therefore, as time goes on, we can expect more people to look at themselves as 'contractors' rather than 'employees' (more people will be forced to develop their own incorporated identity and will not only have to perform the work, but also have to now brand and market themselves more as they move from job to job).
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