The critical problem of our generation


There's a term that is often used to describe someone who doesn't use the latest technology—a luddite. And today, it is easy to feel like a luddite. There's a new technology or AI tool practically every day. My three-year-old is more proficient with voice assistants than my mother. How can someone keep up?  Even fairly technical people are starting to look like luddites.

While this might sound like a small problem, this is the problem of our generation. You just need to see how this drop of water becomes the Atlantic Ocean.

Even the term "luddite" itself comes from a violent past. In the early 1800s, as factories became mechanized, skilled workers and artisans formed a secret organization of workers.  To protest what felt to them like wealthy industrialists robbing them of their craft and livelihood, they would destroy factory machines.

This, however, should be no surprise, because it is predicted by the science of human motivation and performance. The research is incredibly clear. When a person feels like they are under a great deal of emotional and economic pressure, they are less likely to adapt. Instead, they are more likely to regress, and wish for a time when "things were better."

Applying this theory at the scales of whole economies, a troubling pattern emerges.

Economies routinely go through major transitions.  These transitions are most often caused by automation.

  • The agriculture economy transitioned to a manufacturing economy in the 1800s as agriculture got automated.
  • The manufacturing economy transitioned to a services economy in the early to mid 1900 as manufacturing got automated.
  • And now the services economy is transitioning to a solutions economy as services gets automated.

In each of these transitions, those on the side that is getting automated will feel a significant increase in emotional and economic pressure. The shame of losing your livelihood. The fear of not knowing how you'll pay for basic needs. The worry that you're not giving your children a better life than your own.

This feeling will not lead to more adaptability. It will lead to less. And as a result, each of these transitions left the ground fertile for polarization and war.

  • The transition from agriculture to manufacturing created the conditions for greater polarization and ultimately the American Civil War and luddite movements.
  • The transition from manufacturing to services created the conditions for greater polarization and ultimately World War II.
  • And now we are already seeing greater polarization around the world because we've been automating the services industry since the 1990s.

If the pattern of history continues, the rise of artificial intelligence will lead to accelerated polarization and ultimately conflict and violence.  This problem is our generation's to solve. Do we allow the world to collapse into factions and violence, or do we create a more graceful transition?

Solving the problem

If you take the long-view, we're at a crossroads when it comes to how people will find fulfillment in their professional lives.  

  • The road on the right leads to the golden age of work. In this world, all tactical work has been automated, and what's left is the adaptive work that requires human creativity and problem solving. Drudgery no longer exists, and what's left is only interesting work.
  • The road on the left leads to a world of haves and have-nots. In this world, only a few people are able to participate in the post-AI economy. The majority of people have no sense of professional play, purpose, or potential. They don't add value to a community, so they don't feel necessary. This world is a powder keg, waiting to explode.

So how can our generation ensure we get on the first road?  

Technological progress is like the rising tide. It is a force of nature that cannot be stopped. Instead, we must make the transition from one economy to the next as inclusive as possible for everyone. To do that, organizations must get better at motivating colleagues to learn and apprenticing them on the skills of collaborative problem solving where humans still have an advantage.

Today, too many companies have cultures that do not motivate colleagues to learn or adapt. These cultures manage their people like robots, which only leaves colleagues more susceptible to being fully replaced by real robots.  The irony is that these cultures are not only suboptimal for humanity's long term, they are suboptimal for the company's performance in the short term.  (Learn more about the science of performance to see why this must be true.)

To get the world on the right road, we have to solve three problems.

  1. We have to show companies that building adaptive, learning cultures is high ROI in the near term. Our book, Primed to Perform, and our other resources are meant to help executives and leaders understand the science of performance.
  2. We have to make the process of change fast, easy, and cheap.
  3. We have to make tipping points of change. As more companies within an industry embrace high-performing cultures, whole industries will need to change, merely to compete.

This is why Factor and Vega exist.

The Factor platform makes it easy to make organizations that are motivating, inclusive, learning-oriented, and high-performing.

The Vega team helps leaders transform large, complex organizations.

Join the movement

  • If you want your team to be high-performing and motivating, take the tomo survey, and start using the Factor platform.
  • If you want your organization to be part of the solution, read Primed to Perform, or get help from a Vega coach.
  • If you are a software engineer or a strategy consultant and want to join a fast-growing, mission-driven startup, reach out to us. You'll find our organization to be at the cutting edge of using technology to support humanity.
  • If you are a head of HR or People Operations, reach out and we can help you transition your company to the future of work.

Originally published at:

Neel Doshi

Neel is the co-founder of Vega Factor and co-author of bestselling book, Primed to Perform: How to Build the Highest Performing Cultures Through the Science of Total Motivation. Previously, Neel was a Partner at McKinsey & Company, CTO and founding member of an award-winning tech startup, and employee of several mega-institutions. He studied engineering at MIT and received his MBA from Wharton. In his spare time, he’s an avid yet mediocre woodworker and photographer.

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Lindsay McGregor

Lindsay is the co-founder of Vega Factor and co-author of bestselling book, Primed to Perform: How to Build the Highest Performing Cultures Through the Science of Total Motivation. Previously, Lindsay led projects at McKinsey & Company, working with large fortune 500 companies, nonprofits, universities and school systems. She received her B.A. from Princeton and an MBA from Harvard. In her spare time she loves investigating and sharing great stories.

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