Andy Oram just posted an interesting article on the O'Reilly Weblog.
This has sparked an interesting discussion over on Slashdot.Andy OramCan 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?"
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.