Work Displacement: Steven M. Johnson Imagines Future Workspaces

The miraculously inventive Steven M. Johnson thinks about improving the lives of the invisible but essential workers of the world.

Every three months, GOOD releases our quarterly magazine, which examines a given theme through our unique lens. Recent editions have covered topics like the impending global water crisis, the future of transportation, and the amazing rebuilding of New Orleans. This quarter's issue is about work, and we'll be rolling out a variety of stories all month.

Everything I’ve ever read about the “future of work” focuses exclusively on the information worker: science-fiction-worthy “telepresence” (beam me to my meeting, Scotty!), “hotel-ing” as a replacement for permanent desks, and so forth. But what of the majority of folks who work not at computers but in toll booths, drive-throughs, or agricultural fields? How can their future be improved and their work lives enhanced? Research yields an embarrassing lack of attention to their plight.

So after an all-too depressing conversation with a prominent consultant who claimed he was improving the lives of call-center employees by painting their walls a brighter color, I contacted the miraculously inventive Steven M. Johnson to think about improving the lives the invisible but essential workers of the world.

Illustrations by Steven M. Johnson.