Gordon L. Clark Lecture

26 November 2019


Image of Gordon L Clark

Technology and the Future of Work: an international perspective in the shadow of the competition for talent

A public lecture by Gordon L Clark, Professorial Fellow, University of Oxford; Sir Louis Matheson Distinguished Visiting Professor, Department of Banking and Finance, Monash University and 2019 UWA Institute of Advanced Studies Visiting Fellow.

It is widely believed that technology – automation, AI, and the Internet of things and people – will make many people redundant and transform labour markets around the world. It is also believed that machines will replace people, and the future is now.

In this lecture, Professor Clark offers a rather different perspective, grounded in multi-year, international study at Oxford University on workers’ concerns for the future and the challenges facing employers competing for talent in an increasingly crowded marketplace.  He identifies commonalities and differences on these issues around the world.

His view about “technology and the future of work” is cautiously optimistic arguing that there may well be a significant premium for talented individuals willing and able to adapt to changing conditions. As well, he suggests that employers already face significant challenges in holding key personnel and that these challenges are likely to grow rather than be ameliorated by technological change over the coming couple of decades.

Being cautiously optimistic about the future is not the same as seeing the world in ‘rose-tinted glasses’!  He reports on recent research regarding workers’ fears about the future, their willingness to retrain, and their likely flexibility in the face of getting older, maintaining family and community relationships, and generally living a good life.  

He draws implications for the roles and responsibilities of individuals, communities, employers, and governments given the threat of increasing inequality in labour markets – local, regional, and global.  And he also emphasises that technological change can work hand-in-hand with population-ageing to redistribute the benefits of economic prosperity.

Gordon L Clark DSc FBA is Professorial Fellow at St Edmund Hall, Oxford and Co-Director of the Zürich Agile Protection program of the Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment at Oxford University. With expertise in organisation theory, finance, and decision making, he has held appointments at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, Harvard Law School, the University of Chicago, Carnegie Mellon University, and Monash University (Australia). He has also been a Mellon Fellow at the US National Academy of Sciences.  He is currently a Visiting Scholar at the Global Projects Center at Stanford University.

His current research is found in two areas. One program is focused upon individual behaviour in the face of labour market risk and uncertainty, and seeks to better understand how and why people anticipate or not financial risks to their long-term well-being. Another area of research is in the field of organisation theory especially applied to large financial institutions including investment companies, pension funds, and sovereign wealth funds. Gordon is involved with Long Game LLC, a San Francisco based tech-firm whose mission it is to transform how individuals save for the future via social media and related decision-cues aimed at younger people. Recent academic papers have focused on advice-seeking behaviour, gambling, and the effect of unanticipated events on individuals’ financial choices in a multi-country context. Books include Saving for Retirement with Janelle Knox Hayes and Kendra Strauss (Oxford University Press, 2012), Sovereign Wealth Funds with Adam Dixon and Ashby Monk (Princeton University Press, 2013), and Institutional Investors in Global Markets (Oxford University Press, 2017).