The ‘feeling’ economy

Neerja Singh

Is the knowledge economy in a state of terminal decline?

Machines are already thinking for humans. Here is what happened. The first-generation AI disrupted the market for physical jobs. The second-generation AI is getting set to disrupt the market for analytical jobs.

Projections are that a caring, sharing, collaborative or emotional economy is coming, a way of conducting life and business that will involve people and their relationships.

There are four key forces said to be contributing to this shift.

Depersonalization happens when sophisticated technology treats us like a number, or a machine and not as a person with intellect and emotions. How frustrating is it when we are forced to navigate a maze of interactive voice response systems, you just long to talk to a real person?

Saturation happens when the volume of useful information is growing, the ‘signal to noise ratio’ gets worse and it takes intense effort to find information that matters.

Acceleration happens when we have an abundance of time saving devices but no time. Complex global linkages and interconnections accelerate our daily exposure, we are always on.

Fragmentation happens when you feel closer to someone online in another part of the world but completely disconnected from your immediate neighbours. There is a sense of belonging to everywhere but nowhere.

The feeling tasks that our students have therefore to prepare for could be:
• Developing and building teams
• Guiding, directing, and motivating subordinates
• Establishing and maintaining interpersonal relationships
• Assisting and caring for others

These skills have always been important; it’s the value of these skills that will soon be of unprecedented importance. Imagine a scenario where jobs and task allocation will need to be optimized across people and a company’s artificial intelligence capabilities. Hiring will then be more for people skills and less for hard thinking skills. Creating and catering to feelings will be a priority. A financial analyst today, for example, uses AI-powered tools for analytical work, so what’s largely left to do is to hold the client’s hands and to reassure them about stock market dips.

Illustration: Sunil Chawdiker

The ten high-touch industries are projected to be social services, sales, personal care and service, managers, food preparation, education, health care, protective services and business and financial operations. By 2036, most professions will value building work relationships and coordinating with colleagues more than “thinking tasks” like processing or data evaluation.

The vocabulary will change. We say people are our greatest asset, we will begin saying relationships are our greatest asset. Managing by objectives will become managing by meaning and purpose. Mind share will become heart share. Leadership will be more about character than vision, and successful organizations will focus more on social contribution than profit. Your personal value will be the size of your heart, not the size of your ideas.

There will be other shifts. Leadership will be a core competency for every employee; people will have to lead themselves before leading others. This may give the edge to women for their emotional intelligence. Imagine the “people” person becoming more valuable than the anti-social tech geek.

The feeling economy will impact all roles and this will have implications for the education systems and Human Resource Management (HRM) strategies. The genie is out of the bottle. And we may not underestimate the ability of AI to simulate emotional intelligence nor may we ignore the necessity for bringing up students with emotional agility.

The futurist Richard Yonck first coined the term ‘emotion economy’, describing it as an ecosystem of emotionally intelligent devices and software iterations that will completely change the way we interact with machines. The new currency of the feeling economy has brought us further than many thought possible for machines, as technology is being used to read, analyze, and even replicate that missing piece – our emotions. It has become crucial to understand how this ecosystem works, and to learn to draw value from it.

One of the key differentiators between man and machine has always been that we can understand and interpret emotion, but this will not remain in the human domain. Smarter, emotive machines will quickly surpass modern automated technology in customer service; eliminating the flawed, ‘I’m sorry, I didn’t catch that’, functionality of many virtual assistants.

How prepared are humans however to hold up in this ‘feeling economy’? What is their state of emotional wellness? A majority of our students remember school primarily for triggering extreme anxiety. They wake up with anxiety, spend the day with anxiety, and sleep with anxiety. Despite the Right to Education Act 2009 prohibiting physical punishment and mental harassment, corporal punishments continue to be seen as a way to discipline children. The resultant trauma is known to leave deep psychological scars right into adult lives at times.

Poor self-regulation in students calls for classroom partnering and coaching in ways to calm themselves and manage emotions. A child who is feeling overwhelmed needs practice de-escalating.

The hostility and negative thinking that traumatized children develop needs to be neutralized with a narrative that helps them understand that they are not bad kids and the world is not out to get them.

When students become hyper-vigilant or jumpy with an exaggerated startle response, it is because their fight or flight response has gone off. The teacher can help here by matching their effect but in a controlled way. The aim would be to connect to what they are trying to say even if it is just guesswork. The students will do the correction and likely settle down.

Then there are the executive function challenges that may hamper their participation in the feeling economy of the future. Impairment in memory, inability to pay attention, plan and think their behaviour through and self-narrate themselves through tasks.

The answer is positive attention and to make it as fast, predictable and efficient as negative attention. Positive attention is not just praise for desired behaviour, it is an expression of warm and kindness not necessarily earned. Random acts of kindness are the oxygen that will sustain the economy of the future.

The author is a former teacher/journalist, published author and professional speaker on generational diversity with a background and training in media, having worked in advertising, public relations, documentary film making, and feature journalism. She is a TEDx speaker, a member of the Wisdom City Metaverse. She can be reached at and

Leave a Reply