Sci-Fi Writers Imagine the Future of Work

Half of being human, give or take, is the work we do. Pick up a shift. Care for the sick. Fix the plumbing. Audition for a part. Sometimes it’s all we think about—and fret about, especially as technology comes for our jobs. Just search “future of” and autocomplete does the rest: Do you mean “future of work”? Freaking Google, surfacing our collective anxieties yet again.

Economists and organizational behaviorists and McKinsey consultants crunch the numbers and tell us, with great surety, how we’ll spend our days. The careers and callings of tomorrow will inevitably be this, certainly not that, and look at all the superefficient self-guided factory robots! While the nature of work is always changing, the AI revolution has intensified the pace and magnitude of these predictions, painting a future that seems to need our labor less and less.

But charts and white papers only capture so much. Facts need feelings, and for that we turn to science fiction. Its authors are our most humane, necessary futurists, imagining not just what the future holds but how it might look, feel, even smell. In the following pages are stories from eight sci-fi specialists. Some are set in the near term; others, a bit farther out. All remind us that, no matter the inevitable upheavals, we don’t struggle alone—but with and for other people. And robots.

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