Joi Ito's Web

Joi Ito's conversation with the living web.

Andy Oram just posted an interesting article on the O'Reilly Weblog.

Andy Oram
Can computers help reverse falling employment?
Information technologies are implicated in a worldwide and world-historic crisis: falling employment.
Each labor-saving device means the idling of thousands of people, wasting their years of experience, rigorous training, and practical insights.
Anyone who writes programs or plans system deployment should start thinking, "What can I do to bring average people back into the process of wealth creation?"
This has sparked an interesting discussion over on Slashdot.

My personal opinion is that short term quarter-by-quarter capitalism can't possibly think long term enough to deal with many of the larger social issues. I don't think it's just about creating jobs. I think issues such as the environment, poverty, privacy, even computer architectures defy short term profits/gains thinking sometimes. I think it's a good idea for computer professionals to be socially responsible and think long term whenever possible. (See CPSR and EFF).

I think the idea of creating jobs directly by writing software for small businesses is a bit complex. I think that "good jobs" come from innovation and new industries. Many old industries such as the restaurant business are rather zero-sum. I think that increasing the public domain and the commons (spectrum, computer software, creative content...) is the best way to allow people to innovate and be entrepreneurial without being shackled in the well-funded proprietary world. I think that focusing on creating and sharing intellectual wealth in the commons is the best way to create jobs.


Could it be that the jobs are actually created, but not in the countries of the industrialised world, and the people writing such reports have a selective "no jobs HERE = no jobs" vision?

If so, wouldn't social responsibility also mean to let others have a piece of the pie too?


I think I have some ideas on implementing Andy's vision, but rather than overwhelm the space here, my name above is linked to the post on my blog...

I think Dirk is on the wrong track.

Robots can weld a car frame faster and possibly better than the welders that they replace. This is not moving manufacturing overseas, this is "automating".

I write lots of software that automates routine tasks, and luckily most of the time this leads to the workers being freed to take on other responsibilities.

Perhaps the responsibility falls on our educational system and capital markets to providing an environment that fosters risk taking and markets for new creative efforts.


"In manufacturing, e-based connectivity has given an entirely new meaning to supply-chain management. IT links the world on a real-time basis to mature outsourcing platforms in places such as southern China that have scope, scale, and quality that have never existed before. Services are also an important part of this same equation. IT-based connectivity enables the knowledge content of offshore white-collar work platforms to be seamlessly integrated into service businesses around the world. Once deemed “non-tradable,” increasingly high-value-added services functionality (i.e., design, engineering, software programming, medical support, accounting and consulting) can now be sourced from low-cost providers in places such as India. These two channels of outsourcing redefine the very concept of globalization. The Internet has forever changed the labor cost arbitrage between high-wage workers in the developed world and their comparable-quality counterparts in the low-wage developing world. For the developed world, new e-based outsourcing options in goods and services could well bias job creation permanently to the downside."
Steve Roach, chief economist of morgan stanley has an interesting piece on this argument.

I agree for the most part, Joichi, but I would change your following quote slightly. Rather than "focusing on creating and sharing intellectual wealth," I would say we should focus on creating and _selling_ intellectual wealth, in order to create jobs.

Actually Trevor, Joi's got the right idea with sharing. Take the first suggestion from the article, for example. If free EDA tools were made available, for example, that would be a tremendous boon for the semiconductor industry.

OTOH it would be bad for the EDA industry, but lower barriers to entry for the design of IP for ASICS would probably be good for the economy overall.

2 TrackBacks

Listed below are links to blogs that reference this entry: Can computers help reverse falling employment?.

TrackBack URL for this entry:

This morning, Slashdot linked to an O'Reilly weblog post about using technology and computers for job creation. I read it when I first saw it, seemed like something I would be interested in. However, I didn't find it a stirring... Read More

Joi Ito's Web: Can computers help reverse falling employment? A very interesting conversation on Joi Ito's Web based on a recent Slashdot posting. My assumption is that we are entering that Third Wave phase when "jobs," as we have known Read More