Posting in Technology
The first decade of the 2000s was a time of accelerating technology, accompanied by stagnant employment growth. This is no coincidence, MIT researchers argue.
Is information technology destroying more jobs than it creates? That's long been the conventional wisdom, of course. Proponents of IT, on the other hand, point to the new types of opportunities created as a result of the march of technology -- from programming to analytics to technicians.
In the latest edition of MIT Technology Review, David Talbot reviewed Brynjolfsson and McAfee's new book: Race Against The Machine: How the Digital Revolution is Accelerating Innovation, Driving Productivity, and Irreversibly Transforming Employment and the Economy, and pulls out the observation that the digital economy may be favoring that 1% at the top of the pyramid while sapping opportunities at lower levels of the economy.
The first decade of the 2000s was a time of accelerating technology, accompanied by stagnant employment growth, the authors point out. Employment fell by 1% during the past decade, compared to 20% growth in the 1980s and 1990s. This is no coincidence, Brynjolfsson and McAfee say. For example, increasing automation has dramatically reduced the need for customer service workers across many industries, such as airline reservations or directory assistance, the authors point out. MacAfee also points out that "certain kinds of document examination once done by armies of lawyers—can now be done competently by scanning technologies and software."
It's not the labor-intensive or professional jobs that will be replaced by automation -- top executives may see their roles increasingly automated as well. Just last week, SmartPlanet Editor-in-Chief Larry Dignan reported on Gartner analyst Nigel Rayner's prediction that within a couple of decades, "many of the things executives do today will be automated." Rayner observes that the only thing standing in the way of more automated executive decision-making is "business culture." But, "effectively, most of what the CFO, CEO and managers do today will be done better by machines," he says.
In addition, as Brynjolfsson and McAfee observe, "intelligent assistants and question-answer software—of which IBM's Watson is one example—may accelerate the trend. (Talbot's review and the book were written prior to Apple's Siri introduction, so the implications of intelligent assistants in the palm of one's hand were not explored.)
The rise of robotic automation is another trend, and in the book, Brynjolfsson observes that global electronics manufacturer Foxconn "plans to replace many of its factory workers in China with a million new robots."
The employment numbers for this decade that Brynjolfsson and McAfee site are disturbing, and technology may be to blame, at least to a partial degree. But these official numbers but don't take into account the emergence and evolution of entrepreneurial ventures. And technologies such as cloud computing and social networking are providing immense, low-cost resources for new business creation. Many of these new ventures are off the radar.
Talbot also offers an opposing point of view as well: Nobel prize-winning economist Robert Solow, for one, says it has been the norm throughout the course of history for technology to throw people out of work. But in the long run, employment keeps growing, and wages keep rising.
At the IBM Watson University Symposium at Harvard Business School and MIT Sloan School of Management, McAfee moderated a panel on the role of computers in 2020 (live-blogged by Paul Gillin), in which MIT's Rodney Brooks made the observation that the rapid development of IT in North America is providing a competitive edge in the global economy:
"We think manufacturing is disappearing from the US, but in reality there is still $2 trillion in manufacturing in the US. What we’ve done is go after the high end. We have to find things to manufacture that the Chinese can’t. What this has led to is manufacturing jobs getting higher tech. If we can build robotic tools that help people, we can get incredible productivity. The PC didn’t get rid of office workers; it made them do things differently. We have to do that with robots. We can take jobs back from China but they won’t be the same jobs. That doesn’t mean people have to be engineers to work. Instead of a factory worker doing a repetitive task, he can supervise a team of robots doing repetitive tasks."
More discussion on technology's impact on jobs and job creation is available from IBM's live-blogging coverage of the IBM Watson Challenge symposium. McAfee points out that technology now offers organizations robust analytic toolkits that enable greater insights and predictions on market trends. (IBM is sponsor of the SmartPlanet site.) As Irving Wladawsky-Berger, former IBM executive and MIT lecturer observed at the symposium: "Cloud computing and other technologies can help entrepreneurs get started and build companies and hire people. So a lot of small companies will spring up—not the high tech companies but companies that take advantage of technology."
Oct 31, 2011
I think if the IT Destroy the lower down management jobs then it also creates other Information Technology Jobs. By the development of IT task are completed before the time and it's have many other advantages too.
Most of the jobs replaced by tech are not jobs anybody ever really saw as a career goal. These are drudgery jobs, and most of the people in them are there temporarily on their way to something else. If all our economy has to offer its citizens is a life-time in these kinds of jobs, then we have failed.
Seems the Progressive censors are at it again. So I'll post the punchline again. If you really believe this, then why don't we mandate that all "shovel ready" construction projects be done with shovels instead of backhoes. And then to create even more jobs, let's substitute the shovels with spoons. Our own President believes this.
The reality is that the world doesn't owe you or anybody a living. Freedom of choice is also the freedom to starve Democratic freedoms are choices Choosing means taking responsibility for those choices The world's population is growing exponentially and unsustainably Increase human scarcity by choosing not to have children and there will be plenty of jobs. It's that simple
Yes, it also creates new ones too... and makes them easier to outsource! Imagine where we'd be if the millions of outsourced technical support jobs (alone) had stayed in the US over the past decade instead of going out to pay millions of Indians and Chinese to do it for us. Just approximate $10 an hour, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, 10million jobs x 10 years... that's $8.76trillion (if there be so many) paid out in the past 10 years that would've stayed here... granted, its cheaper to pay them over there than it is here but, even a quarter of that ($2.50 an hour) is still $2.19trillion, or $219billion a year. Granted we get to help the rest of the world, and it frees up all those (now) unemployed people in the US to do other more productive jobs... like collect unemployment checks, but it also makes the families they help have less overall money to afford their houses and basic other necessities. Outsourcing is the real problem, not the technological development that allows it to happen. Include in that that the're using those US dollars to buy Chinese manufactured goods, not US.... its NOT coming back into our economy.
Computers are essentially about automating tasks and process's. In essense the reduction of the human element or more precisely, reducing labour costs. There are a number of jobs threatened by progress in technology such as Accountants, Web Designers, IT technicians, consultants, check out operators,middle men and few more. All of these jobs are, or are being automated. It is my view that in the IT business there are creators and consumers, creators design and build software for example. Consumers are basically everybody who does not create. I added webdesigners to my list of dodos after seeing Adobe's latest web site creation tool. Given the time and money I could automate the whole of the tax system and basically erdicate several thousand jobs.
How many jobs did Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and Michael Dell create? All told, probably millions, including virtually everyone connected to this page.
Its unfortunate that such brilliant people took such a narrow view of the topic. First IT is not equal to the successful automation of a company, nor is it the sole source of technology that would change the way a business operates -- just changing processes can do same. Second, IT, by my observations can do far more job harm simply in the money that it wastes, that could be better allocated for new roles. I've seen countless Fortune 500 companies waste more money on technologies that are never adequately leveraged for any variety of reasons -- thus being an absolute and total waste of money. In the enterprise realm, such technologies have costs in the hundreds of thousands of dollars and the implementations of same is 3-4 times that. The bottom line is that the optimal design of anything should evaluate how to allocate the elements of design across the solution (from design thinking principles): mystery, heuristic, algorithm and binary code. These are not to be seen as a linear march to a destination, but a holistic paradox -- where things are both locked down and squishy at the same time. My classic example is a case where I was refuting a PhD candidate's insistence that they could use job classifications as some sort of knowledge continuum, where on the low end of the continuum they had placed 'truck driver'. Trying to argue that all workers should be leveraged as knowledge workers, I quickly brought up the fact that FedEX truck drivers are owner operators. That as a truck driver and as an owner operator I likely would love for FedEX to automate my daily route (the algorithm), including optimizing right-hand turns for efficiency of costs that I have to bear. But I would also not want that technology to serve as a barrier for me to interject my own human intellect (the heuristics) to account for traffic, accidents, or even a choice to backtrack to a valued customer who has a critical need. As well, because we've not looked at business from a design model perspective such as this, we've also applied the wrong algorithms. In 2006 HP figured out that the outsourcing of their call centers had begun to impact their brand/credibility -- that they needed to take back ownership of these critical customer touchpoints. Indeed, the real opportunity for businesses today, is to evaluate their touchpoints and determine how effective the balance of the design truly is, and whether or not the 'work as algorithms and binary code' are in balance with the 'work as mystery and heuristics' (see graphic references lower portion of http://totalexperience.corante.com/archives/2010/02/28/design_thinking_in_stereo_martin_and_brown.php) The problem isn't that we've got technology replacing people, it's that we're not designing technology to optimize the human potential.
Not sure what tax system you're referring to, but if it's the federal income tax it's barely understood by the IRS itself & changes annually. Good luck trying to automate that.
How many were eliminated? Spreadsheets, word processors and other productivity improvers mean fewer people in more companies than just Microsoft can do the same work. In addition there are the automated customer service systems, self-serve checkout kiosks, robotized warehouses and assembly lines to consider. Many of the positive things that are cited in the article have a major problem. They don't create as many jobs as have been displaced.
"The problem isn't that we've got technology replacing people, it's that we're not designing technology to optimize the human potential." Thank you for a lucid perspective, Rotkapchen.
Even in the case of these owner / operators, automation / IT will eventually reduce the number of trips to be made thus directly their profitablity. It will also introduce more competition thus also impacting profitabilty. I worked in the IT function of an automobile company for more than a decade. Every instance of computerisation led to the closing off of more future opportunities and while the company e-deployed the displaced persons within the company, they certainly reduced employment opportunities. The company had a "no fire" policy. what was unsaid was that this was paired with a "no hire" policy.