The way we work is undergoing a major shift thanks to technological development and demographic change and, this month, Horizon looks at how research is helping us stay ahead of the game. We find out how decisions made early in your career could determine when you retire, and how to get the most out of the relationship between humans and machines in factories. We also investigate some of the ethical issues that could arise in the jobs of the future and how best to take them into account.
Married people who work from home report feeling happier than they were before doing so, and the reason could be that it allows for a fairer distribution of chores, according to a scientist studying the impact of teleworking on wellbeing.
The future of work is here – and it’s defined by flexibility, autonomy and pressure, according to Prof. Seán Ó Riain from Maynooth University, Ireland, who has been studying how workplaces have changed since 1995. He says we need to rethink public services to help people balance work and family in this new era.
Robots are already changing the way we work - particularly in factories - but worries that they will steal our jobs are only part of the picture, as new technologies are also opening up workplace opportunities for workers and are likely to create new jobs in the future.
We need a new bill of rights to absorb the changes brought about by the gig economy, or using apps and websites to arrange casual jobs, which are now spreading to other areas of work, according to an international labour expert speaking at a conference on the future of work.
Policies to extend working life should not exclusively focus on older people as the decision on when to retire is influenced by the course of a person's career, according to researchers investigating the factors affecting how long people work.
The construction industry has a heavy carbon footprint, accounting for some 40% of global emissions, and yet, as the world’s population grows, demand for housing and building is only soaring. We kick off 2021 by looking at how the construction sector can become greener and some of the radical solutions required. We speak to sustainable architecture expert Dr Catherine De Wolf about the need to design recyclable buildings and how that will require a fundamental restructure of the way the construction industry works. We look at nearly zero energy wooden homes and investigate whether this material can help us kick our concrete habit – concrete being the most used substance on Earth. We home in on techniques to make cement greener and piezoelectric to light up spaces with the addition of vegetable waste, and at how self-healing building materials can prolong the life of civil infrastructures. And we explore the promise of fungal architecture to see whether structures grown from fungus can green the way we build.
In December, as the European Space Agency’s Gaia mission to create a precise 3-D map of a billion objects in the Milky Way releases its next tranche of data, we take an in-depth look at what we know – and what we don’t – about our home galaxy. We speak to astrophysicist Prof. Ralf Klessen about why it might enhance our understanding of the Milky Way to consider it as a constantly evolving ecosystem rather than studying different parts in an isolated way. We speak to scientists who are trying to image the centre of the galaxy, which is hidden from view behind giant dust and gas clouds, and we explore the latest research into how stars are formed. And finally, we find out what the galaxies surrounding the Milky Way can tell us about our home system.
In the summer of 2014 a strange building began to take shape just outside MoMA PS1, a contemporary art centre in New York City. It looked like someone had started building an igloo and then got carried away, so that the ice-white bricks rose into huge towers. It was a captivating sight, but the truly impressive thing about this building was not so much its looks but the fact that it had been grown.
Bilingual people can effortlessly switch between languages during everyday interactions. But beyond its usefulness in communication, being bilingual could affect how the brain works and enhance certain abilities. Studies into this could inform techniques for learning languages and other skills.
Live mycelium networks, capable of information processing, could be used as building materials.
Researchers are investigating whether bilingualism enhances certain cognitive abilities.
Dr Kate Rychert studies ocean plate structures.