Jobs, work and technology

Here are some of the observations and insights that were shared on Twitter this past week.

Irving Wladawsky-Berger: Jobs in the Age of Watson – via @raesmaa [automated & outsourced]

These non-routine cognitive tasks are beyond the scope of computer substitution for the foreseeable future.  However, one can design sophisticated tools to significantly expand what people can accomplish when performing these activities.  For example, CAD systems have enabled engineers to develop far more complex products than they could have done otherwise.  Social networking tools make it easier for people to communicate and collaborate with colleagues over wide distances and thus improve the collective intelligence of the team.   And, systems like Watson will be extensively used to help experts deal with highly complex problems in areas like medicine, finance and national security.

The Age of the Superfluous Worker‘ – the challenge of thinking outside the box – via @CharlesJennings

Meanwhile, new ways of increasing surplus labor have appeared. One is the continued outsourcing of jobs to low-wage countries; the other is the continuing computerization and mechanization of manufacturing and of services not requiring hands-on human contact. Continuing increases in worker productivity add yet more to the surplus. So does the unwillingness of employers to even consider hiring people who have been unemployed for a long time.

@umairh – Seven problems a recovery won’t fix – via @cburell

Pointlessness. Here’s a statistic that ought to set your hair on fire: somewhere between 50 and 75% of “employees” are “disengaged” (depending on whose numbers you want to buy): they don’t care much, if at all, about the work they do. But can you blame them? Perhaps they don’t care not just because the work they do feels pointless, but because, in human terms, it mostly is. Designing new bottles for deodorants or energy drinks or finding a new loophole in the law isn’t exactly helping design, craft, build, or maintain the Sistine Chapel. Yet it’s what roughly about 75% of us do every weary day of our drab working lives. Forget the numbers and just ask yourself: if you were to walk into any corporation, would you find faces brimming over with deep fulfillment and authentic delight–or stonily asking themselves, “If it wasn’t for the accursed paycheck, would I really let imprison myself in this dungeon of the human soul?”

Seth’s Blog: Without a diverse talent pool, any society [company] will do a poor job of solving the problems that inevitably arise:

Diversity of talents and interests is central to innovation because new things are so often mixtures of old things. By rewarding only one kind of talent, colleges suppress diversity of talent and thereby reduce innovation.

Social media: An Epidemic of Insignificance – by @JayDeragon

Everywhere we turn in every form of media we are surrounded with this thing called social media. Facebook dominates magazine covers, stories, broadcast and our mobile devices “tweet” with content from ” twits”.  The human network is more consumed with reading and watching “the latest and greatest” than they are about improving real relationships. Social technology is creating the effect of “social heads in the sand” by believing popular and influential” are more important than the meaningful and significant.


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