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ICT: Friend or Foe for Jobs?

stylianosm's picture
Submitted by stylianosm on Wed, 2012-04-18 06:40

Hello again,

Starting with the first of our initial questions, in the book “Race Against The Machine”, Brynjolfsson & McAfee refer to the “end of work” argument, after Rifkin’s 1995 book of the same title. In it, Rifkin laid out a bold and disturbing hypothesis: that “we are entering a new phase in world history—one in which fewer and fewer workers will be needed to produce the goods and services for the global population".

At the same time, Europe lacks considerable ICT-skilled workforce to accelerate growth and -in contrast to other competing regions- struggles to convert knowledge and expertise into development.

So let's make our opening statement on the role of ICT by commenting this post and reflecting on the following issues:

- Are you a techno-optimist or a techno-pessimist? Do we need less or more ICT? Why?
- What are the conditions that lead to more or less jobs?
- Do you have any specific (good or bad) practice examples in mind at the local or national level?
- What skills would you identify as critical for short and long-term employability?

Looking forward to your opinions!

Stylianos

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Comments

miguel.gonzalez-sancho-bodero's picture
Submitted by miguel.gonzalez... on Fri, 2012-04-20 23:31

Thanks for launching the debate. I absolutely need to read the book as you're the 3rd person that recommends it to me in a few days.
Whether ICT optimist or pessimist I guess the trend is unstoppable, so we all (within our personal possibilities) try to influence that trend towards positive outcomes, i.e. more jobs and welfare.
About the critical skills for employability, I know there's abundant analysis on this. I'll try to invite some of that expertise to this forum.

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stylianosm's picture
Submitted by stylianosm on Fri, 2012-04-27 16:23

Technological progress & brain power

Thank you Miguel, you’re right, technology and its exponential advancing pace is here to stay. And while information is booming, the flat cognitive capacity of the human brain that can process up to 300 words per minute is our limitation. Is Singularity our future? But let’s not indulge ourselves with philosophical discussions...

We are looking forward to welcoming people with expertise and even hands-on experience with the issues who can help us design solutions.

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constantinidesa's picture
Submitted by constantinidesa on Sun, 2012-04-22 16:14

I also agree with Miguel that the trend of having more ICT is unstoppable and I would add that it is ever-accelerating. In fact, one of the main conclusions of the Brynjolfsson and McAfee book is that this increased ICT adoption is happening so fast that the labor market is not able to really keep up. ( A short overview of their book can be found in this Technology Review article: http://www.technologyreview.com/computing/39319/?p1=MstRcnt ).

Another take on ICT adoption and jobs can be found in an interesting article in the McKinsey Quarterly by W. Brian Arthur, in which he argues that technological advancement is taking over service jobs:

https://www.mckinseyquarterly.com/The_second_economy_2853

Andreas

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stylianosm's picture
Submitted by stylianosm on Fri, 2012-04-27 15:58

Accelerating Digital Economy

Welcome, Andreas and thank you for the useful links.
Indeed, the challenge economies face world-wide including EU is speeding up the creation of new jobs utilizing (new) technology with the help of smart policies & initiatives.
Can we, Europeans, lead the way?

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nabeth.thierry's picture
Submitted by nabeth.thierry on Thu, 2012-04-26 17:03

Just an article suggesting that automation may not necessarily put people out of work:

Artificial intelligence: time to 'invest in soft robotics'
http://www.publicserviceeurope.com/article/1772/time-to-wake-up-and-inve...

Summary: The increasingly popular field of soft robotics is set to have an enormous impact on the service and manufacturing industries; and there is no need to be concerned that automation will put people out of work – the reverse is true as jobs that would otherwise be outsourced to China can be protected

I bring this article as an element for the debate, not as a way to express my personal opinion on the subject.

My personal opinion (but this is just an opinion, and I would like to have more scientific evidence about what is the reality) is that technology is something that should be aimed at augmenting people capabilities and not automatizing people (because you lose control & flexibility). Also, the result of augmenting people capability does not mean that we need less people to do the same things, but offer the opportunity to offer value to a larger number of the population.

Thierry

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Engberg's picture
Submitted by Engberg on Fri, 2012-05-04 12:46

The question is not phrased constructively as it assume technology as a given instead of something we design.

Technology can be used to enhance a job to provide a better combination or to automate a task while creating better jobs elsewhere in the value chain.

What is given is that when you have a higher cost base, you need technology to compete. If you do not, the job will move.

The big problem in Europe is huge and inefficient public sectors operating as Command & Control systems, e.g. falling further and further behind over time as they are not senistive to constant change and individualisation of solutions.

Technology can both be used to solve this problem through e.g. citizens empowerment to control and government value chains and to worsen this problem through e.g. centralisation and creating monolistic structures. The sad fact is that Europe systemically chose the wrong way worsening the situation.

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AxelS's picture
Submitted by AxelS on Thu, 2012-05-10 20:13

Let me zoom into your last question: "What skills would you identify as critical for short and long-term employability?" ---- Sorry for the long comment

I feel the single most important skill is "learning skills". Learning is a behavior and in our society regarded as something negative. Kids get tortured for 12 or so years to a point that learning is the worst that could happen. People stop actively learning on average at around age 28 and from then on only learn be doing - often forced to do something that eventually has a learning effect. At age 36+ if you are not top notch and know everything you are in trouble. By age 40+ if you don't know what you need to know to do an excellent job, you are a looser - meaning admitting you need to learn is not an option. By age 45 your brain is now conditioned for about 35 years, every single day that learning is a pain, so that you just refuse to learn not intellectually but mentally. At that stage it just doesn't make any difference if you are a high ranked scientist or a worker in a mine - 90+% refuse to learn. Whether ICT or any other branch - retrain a person in that age is almost impossible and the most called argument for unemployment is "age discrimination" ... ;)

The counter: High school drop offs, kids who were really bad at school because they had too much fun and didn't care about learning mostly turn out to be very successful later on - because at one point they DECIDE to learn and develop skills to do that.

That's why I believe learning skills and a shift in our society towards learning is the most important skill development to more employability.

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