Robots did not write this sentence, or any other part of Nature. But that could change. Dramatic shifts in labour are reshaping society, the environment and the political landscape. Consider this disorienting estimate from the World Economic Forum: 65% of children entering primary schools now will grow up to work in jobs that do not yet exist. This week, Nature asks: what light is research shedding on the future of work, and how will the changes affect scientists’ working world?