In response to economist Paul Krugman's article in The New York Times earlier this year predicting the "hollowing out" of middle-wage jobs due to automation, writer Rajan Chandras responded at InformationWeek that human skills would advance accordingly. In a post about that, I quoted Chandras, saying:
Not too long ago, typing at 40 words per minute was considered to be an impressive skill. More recently still, writing programs in Basic language was a skill held by an elite few. What was considered a skill sometime in the past becomes a routine (or redundant) human capability later. As technology has advanced, so has human capability to leverage technology for equally advanced purposes - and to equally impressive effects. In fact, managing advanced technology, in every field of study (and life) - has evolved into a large and growing avenue of employment in itself.
Bernard Golden, in a CIO.com piece, takes a similar tack with cloud computing skills. Golden is CEO of consulting firm HyperStratus and author of the book "Virtualization for Dummies." He's responding to a ZDNet article that I wrote about last week on a presentation at Gartner Symposium in Orlando, Fla. Golden disputes the idea that the cloud will lead to a wholesale loss of IT jobs. That notion, he says, is based on a fallacy in logic:
The argument is that cloud computing automates tasks that, in the past, have been performed by employees, and that after automation occurs, those people will no longer be needed. CIOs, who believe that their organizations are inefficient and are looking to cut costs, will substitute automation for headcount and start laying people off left and right.
Instead, he believes the cloud will make computing not only cheaper, but more efficient, making it more widely used than ever - and that there will be jobs in managing that. IT folks, he says, will simply have to learn new skills (don't they always?):
There's no question that lower-skilled IT employees who cannot develop the ability to work in a highly automated, large-scale environment are going to have severely restricted job prospects. But that makes sense, because IT is scaling up. ...
With respect to IT employees, we firmly believe that every capable IT employee, if he or she is willing to learn, will have a bright future. The coming demand for IT services will dwarf the expectations of people, even those who putatively are seers in the field.
He goes on to name jobs he sees as important in the future of cloud computing, namely those who plan, design and build systems and applications, those my colleague Ann All referred to as the "automators." He concludes:
... evaluating employment patterns based on reduced need for manual skills with an assumption of a fixed pie of overall demand fails to grasp the coming boom in IT employment. The job titles and skills may be different, but the numbers will be far larger. Anyone who predicts a future of IT ghost towns hasn't really examined the real implications of cloud computing.