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Friday, April 13, 2012

The End of Jobs: One Employee, a Robot and You

I think this is by far the best article I have read on globalization and the re-balancing of the world economy in a post recession phase. I think we have come to the end of notions like; local vs. global economy, made in country X and outsourcing. It is easy to understand why the American without a college degree will never get back into a job. 

Here is an excerpt of “How Did the Robot End Up With My Job?, an article by Thomas Friedman, published October 1, 2011 in The New York Times.

Pascal Lamy, chief of the World Trade Organization, argues that terms like “made in America” or “made in China” are phasing out. The proper term, says Lamy, is “made in the world.” More products are designed everywhere, made everywhere and sold everywhere. Indeed, there is no “in” or “out” anymore.

The term “outsourcing” is also out of date. There is no more “out” anymore. Firms can and will seek the best leaders and talent to achieve their goals anywhere in the world. Dov Seidman, is the C.E.O. of LRN, a firm that helps businesses develop principled corporate cultures, and the author of “How: Why How We Do Anything Means Everything.” He describes the mind-set of many C.E.O.’s he works with: “I run a global company with a global mission and one set of shared values in pursuit of global objectives. My employees are all over the world — more than half outside the U.S. — and more than half of my revenues and my plans for growth are out there, too. So you tell me: What is out and what is in anymore?”

In the last decade, we have gone from a connected world (thanks to the end of the cold war, globalization and the Internet) to a hyperconnected world (thanks to those same forces expanding even faster). And it matters. The connected world was a challenge to blue-collar workers in the industrialized West. They had to compete with a bigger pool of cheap labor.

The hyperconnected world is now a challenge to white-collar workers. They have to compete with a bigger pool of cheap geniuses — some of whom are people and some are now robots, microchips and software-guided machines. It is also both a huge challenge and opportunity. It has never been harder to find a job and never been easier — for those prepared for this world — to invent a job or find a customer. Anyone with the spark of an idea can start a company overnight, using a credit card, while accessing brains, brawn and customers anywhere.

There is no doubt that the main reason for our 9.1 percent unemployment rate is the steep drop in aggregate demand in the Great Recession. But it is not the only reason. “The Great Recession” is also coinciding with — and driving — “The Great Inflection.”

Picture this. You arrive at a major cable TV network studio in Washington. A contracted security guard signs you in. The same person will have your nose powdered, attach your microphone, position you in the studio chair before a robotic camera operated by someone in a control room in New York City and speak to whoever the host is and wherever.  That’s it: one employee, a robot and you.

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