Phoebe V. Moore
The Quantified Self in Precarity: Work, Technology and What Counts, London: Routledge, 2018; 234pp.: ISBN 9781138674066, 73 [pounds sterling] (hbk)
'Before too long it will be possible for employers to literally track our blood, sweat and tears' (Moore 2018: 8).
Moore's Quantified Selfis an important contribution and corrective at a time of growing concern regarding the future of work. There is currently a split between dystopic and utopic visions of the future focused around what the effects of existing and likely advances in machine learning, artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, sensors, connectivity, cloud computing and the Internet of Things (IoT) will be. However, both dystopic and utopic accounts share a common focus. The core concern has been whether there will be a net increase or decrease in employment. That is, whether job displacement by technology will overwhelm job creation (new technology leading to the loss of some tasks but the modification of occupations creating complementary changes in work, and new technology leading to the creation of wholly new varieties of occupation). The range of possible futures that have been staked out for the United Kingdom is illustrated by two well publicised reports.
In 2015 research (duplicating a model applied to the USA by Frey and Osborne in 2013), the Bank of England focused exclusively on displacement and reported that 37% of total UK employment is at high risk of being lost to new technology. More recently, in 2017, the government commissioned Made Smarter Review made the claim that though 295,000 jobs may be lost to displacement by 2025, complementary effects will likely create 370,000 jobs and another 100,000 wholly new jobs can be expected to be created (for a net employment change of 175,000). Clearly, both of these are highly disputable attempts to map out the future. In doing so, however, neither places great emphasis on the experience of work for the worker, nor how management systems in capitalism may serve to shape the experience of work. The fulcrum of the dominant discourse is all about whether and how technological opportunity can be seized. That is, how appropriate investment and knowledge dissemination will revitalise capitalism leading to growth, and this in turn is to the ultimate benefit of labour and of social welfare (and the environment). There is little to no balancing consideration of how capitalism itself may affect the use and development of...