Follow me on Twitter

Sunday, 18 December 2011

Jobs of the Future

I have just read Stiglitz article in the Vanity Fair:

The link to the article is here

The phrase that I thought I'll blog about is:

"We have to transition out of manufacturing and into services that people want—into productive activities that increase living standards, not those that increase risk and inequality."

Nicely said, Professor Stiglitz but a little too simplistic. As someone who works in value, new business models and service systems, I would of course agree with you that the future is in services and I am pleased you are highlighting this. However, I suspect that the way you think about services might not the way I think about services and I do take issue with the way you have oversimplified it. Let me elaborate.

I argue that this 'investing in services' is more complicated you think. You intimate that the solution is to throw a lot of money into investing in skills for services when I don't think anyone can even specify what those skills are. Services behave as 'wholes' and to say that investing in skills for services might as well be saying that we should in invest in skills for the economy - it doesn't mean a thing. There is also the fallacy of composition when you decide to say 'services' because these 'wholes' (service systems) don't behave like reductionistic manufacturing systems. What is good for a part is not necessarily good for a whole (I could stand up in a theatre to get a better view but that won't work if everyone stands up) - jobs where performance is held at an aggregated systemic level and working in the interfaces are a whole lot harder to specify, given that legacy institutional structures have not been designed to work in that manner. And service systems are evolving as well. Future of services include manufacturing, as the future of manufacturing is also embedded in services, so future 'services' are a hybrid of things (manufacturing) and activities (services). What jobs? What skill sets? I am a big fan of simplification, but not to the extent that promotes false hopes and misunderstandings. Your article makes policy makers think there is a simple fix-it, or that manufacturing is somehow different from services. Bad manufacturing IS different from services but excellent manufacturers (such as Apple) would see much more convergence between the two. Therefore, while I commend your emphasis on activities to improve society's well being, suggesting 'investment in services' creates a false dichotomy and allow economists and policy makers to opt out of dealing with complexity, interfaces, boundaries and interactions between manufacturing and services, and endorsing the fundamental flaw of atomistic, reductionistic economic science that got us into this mess to begin with.

PS on article

Economics need to move towards complex systems science, a body of theory and science of connections, as opposed to conventional economic theory, which is concerned with static elements and states. Its not much of a point to say that markets will be efficient in the end. The current business and economic environment, with all its upheavals, is in need of a greater understanding of evolution, transition, and its ascent/descent to order, disorder, or chaos. We are in urgent need of a new economic systems science.

-- Posted from my iPhone

1 comment:

  1. Economics need to move towards complex systems science..We are in urgent need of a new economic systems science...

    Actually yes ..and now's the time to start building it .. and one of the killer things that will come into the equation is the multiple dimensions of value .. as we all know value and {insert currency symbol} are not equivalents !