The “Human Cloud” and the Future of Work


One thing we write about a lot at GigaOM — and particularly on our Web Worker Daily collaboration blog — is the future of work. It’s not just about the tools like Skype and Jive Software and Yammer and Rypple that try to make personal interaction easier online, although it is partly about that. It’s also about how working in new and different ways changes our lives, for better and for worse, and how the entire nature of what we call work is evolving and blurring online.

The biggest change, for both workers and companies, is a move toward what we call “the human cloud.” In the same way that high-speed Internet access disrupted the corporate IT market, creating a “cloud” of web-enabled infrastructure, the human cloud is shorthand for how the web has disrupted the way we work. Companies rely on dispersed teams to get the best talent available regardless of location (or price) and many are using crowdsourcing and other innovative means to achieve their goals.

Meanwhile, many people who work in this new cloud have lives that look nothing like they would have even10 years ago: they may have contracts with a variety of clients, outsource themselves and their skills through a third-party service like Elance or ODesk or collaborate with coworkers in opposing time zones. The companies they work for, and with, may not even know what they look like, or where they live. This is the reality of the human cloud and it is changing us (and the companies we work for) in ways we may not fully realize yet.

At GigaOM, we believe that this is such a fascinating and ultimately important topic that we aren’t just writing about it, we’re devoting an entire conference to the subject: Net:Work, on Dec. 9 at the Mission Bay Conference Center in San Francisco (and you can register here). We’ve got some great speakers lined up, including two giants in the field of technology and human behavior: author and consultant John Hagel and John Seely Brown, former director of Xerox PARC, the research center that gave us things like the graphical UI for PCs and the mouse (the full list is here).

If you want to read more about these changes and their implications, and the tools and companies that are making them a reality, you can find some of our recent coverage, as well as recent stories on co-working, the impact of collaboration on businesses and some great analysis from Web Worker Daily editor Simon Mackie in a recent GigaOM Pro report (subscription required) entitled “Opportunities Abound as the Rules of Work are Broken.” Stay tuned to Web Worker Daily and GigaOM, because we will be posting more updates about who will be speaking at Net:Work and the trends we’ll be following. And come to Net:Work to find out how the future of work will affect you and your company.

Image courtesy of Flickr user kevindooley

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