Automation to Boost Definition of (Human) 'Skilled Labor'?

Susan Hall

My colleague Ann All last September addressed an issue of great interest to IT pros: Should they worry their jobs will be automated out of existence?

 

She quoted Glen O'Donnell, a senior analyst for Forrester Research, saying that with the combo of cloud computing and automation, some jobs will be eliminated, but others will emerge. His advice: Be the automator, not the automated.

 

At InformationWeek, writer Rajan Chandras takes a similar view to the "hollowing out" of jobs in the middle of the economy due to automation. I wrote about the column by Paul Krugman at The New York Times last week that asserted that jobs are being created at the top and bottom rungs. He pointed to legal research as an example of the jobs that computers increasingly can do much more cheaply.

 

Writes Chandras:

... there's one point that I think Krugman has missed altogether: As technology (and hence automation) advances, the concept of skilled labor, too, advances....
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.
That's why we must continue to invest in the research and development of technology, and in ways to harness that technology. We must continue to be the beacon of advancement across the world, and the harbinger of new ways to use this technology to not just keep ourselves gainfully occupied, but also to enrich our lives.


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