It was in 2019 that Avik Chanda, an author and business advisor, began deliberating on a book that was to be about work and its foreseeable future. Just when he started work on it, the Covid-19 pandemic struck. The initial confidence that the wait to resume work would end in a few months quickly snowballed into uncertainty. After all, “writing a book on the future when the here and now itself was so volatile seemed like an impossibility,” Chanda writes in the book. That is when Siddhartha Bandyopadhyay, a professor of economics at the University of Birmingham in the United Kingdom, came on board. The bulk of the research and much of the writing of Work 3.0 was undertaken during the pandemic.
Much of what we knew, the way we thought of going about our lives, of working and interacting with others, have all changed irrevocably, observe Chanda and Bandyopadhyay. The book begins with a discussion between the two, where Bandyopadhyay says how the pandemic has “turned the entire global ecosystem into a single giant lab”, because of which any disruption, innovation, technological or operational leap that might have taken years to come into being, is now taking months, if not weeks.
Here is an excerpt from the book:
As regards the question of how the individual should cope with violent shifts in circumstances, external conditions as well as emotional and psychological pressures, our position is very definite. The current disruptions across the world are of a scale, pace and quantum that are quite unprecedented in human history, and this rate of change is very likely to continue in the foreseeable future. Governments and organizations, both grappling with the sheer pressure of these changes, have begun to formulate, and even undertake, transformative measures, more in some economies and sectors than in others. But, even if all these well-intentioned initiatives were to be perfectly executed, they would still be inadequate in insulating the individual against the shifting challenges that disruptions will continue to bring up. It is, therefore, incumbent upon every individual to take up the challenge and find means of transitioning from a state of constant coping to that of successfully navigating change. The transformation that we are advocating is needed is mass-scale, swift, drastic and urgent. We shall call it the First Inner Revolution—or IR 1.0.
The book, says Chanda, was “born out of the necessity of not just trying to make sense of a present when the whole world appeared bleak but to look beyond it, to a future time of new possibilities and rejuvenation”. It not only became an anchor for both the authors but also “gave our lives renewed meaning and purpose, during a long and painful period of lockdowns and enforced social distancing, in India as well as the UK,” he adds.
Chanda recalls the time when he and Bandyopadhyay had a “eureka moment”. They were discussing key takeaways of the book for the final chapter when an idea crossed their minds: “The levers of technological advancement, disruption and change, if left entirely to themselves, are likely create a workplace, and by corollary, a world, that is anti-human centric.” The idea was promptly put to paper. “It seemed like a pretty powerful thing to be said, and my sense is that its import will increase, not diminish, with the passage of time,” says Chanda.
The Author Up Close
Besides being an author, columnist and business advisor, Chanda is also the director of Canto, an international literature festival. “Be it designing a behavioural test as part of my start-up offerings, directing a literature festival, addressing a corporate audience, teaching a course at a university or working on an article or a full-length book, there is tremendous satisfaction and fulfilment in the realisation that these activities might benefit others,” he says. Collaboration and the deepening of camaraderie and relationships form a big part of this experience, he adds. He finds happiness in reading, immersing himself in art and, on the rare occasions when he can manage it, in deep thinking.
Following the publication of his previous book, Dara Shukoh: The Man Who Would Be King, Chanda had signed up for another book on history. “That project is still waiting to be worked on. But Sid (Bandyopadhyay) and I have also been toying with the idea of doing a new book with another friend from our schooldays, noted statistician and academic Sudipto Banerjee. Or, it could be a book of historical fiction. The possibilities are substantial …,” says Chanda on his next venture. But for now, he is happy savouring the experience holding the copy of his new book in his hands.