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Sunday, July 11, 2004

How Computers Are Changing Careers via HBSWK

Technology has indeed changed the face of work, but not in the ways many people once predicted. In a provocative new book, economists Frank Levy and Richard J. Murnane discuss the kinds of jobs that are likely to endure and the kinds that will fall by the wayside—and the resulting impact on society. Their book, The New Division of Labor: How Computers Are Creating the Next Job Market, asks and answers four questions:

What kinds of tasks do humans perform better than computers?
What kinds of tasks do computers perform better than humans?
In an increasingly computerized world, what well-paid work is left for people to do both now and in the future?
How can people learn the skills to do this work?
Strange as it sounds, computerized work creates both high-skilled and low-skilled jobs. With a few exceptions, it is the "middling skilled jobs" that are most at risk."rules-based" repetitive work occurs most frequently in clerical jobs—particularly back office work—and in assembly line work. These jobs are also vulnerable from a second direction because the ability to describe a job in rules makes it easier to move the jobs to a lower wage country with minimal misunderstanding.Conversely, three main types of work cannot be described in rules:
1. Identifying and solving new problems (if the problem is new, there is no rules-based solution to program).
2. Engaging in complex communication—verbal and non-verbal—with other people in jobs like leading, negotiating, teaching, and selling.
3. Many "simple" physical tasks that are central to janitorial work, waiting on tables, and other service work. Very important and relevant research.
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