Thursday, June 16, 2005

What does the future of work look like?

For activities that, ultimately, are about processing information, the computer revolution itself has drastically reduced the minimum efficient scale. A laptop, a cheap videocamera, and the free iMovie or Windows Movie Maker software (plus an Internet connection) will let one person do things that the Big Three television networks could only dream of in Galbraith's day, at a tiny fraction of the cost. The same laptop with a soundcard, a couple of microphones, and software like Acid, Cubase, or Audition can replace an expensive recording studio. Change the software and it can replace an office full of Galbraith-era accountants with calculators, pencils and paper, or even with access to big 1960s mainframe computers. This observation is commonplace now, of course, but its implications for Galbraith-era economics have gotten somewhat less attention. It's not just that fewer people can do the same work, it's that they don't need a big company to provide the infrastructure to do the work, and, in fact, they may be far more efficient without the big company and all the inefficiencies and stumbling blocks that its bureaucracy and "technostructure" tend to produce.

Those inefficiencies were present in Galbraith's day, too, of course. People have been making jokes about office politics and bureaucratic idiocies since long before Dilbert. But in the old days, you had to put up with those problems because you needed the big organization to do the job. Now, increasingly, you don't. Goliath's clumsiness used to be made up for by the fact that he was strong. But now the Davids are muscling up without bulking up. So why be a Goliath?

That is the question that many people are asking themselves, and as technology moves toward smaller, faster, and cheaper approaches in man, many areas we're likely to see an army of Davids taking the place of those slow, shuffling Goliaths. This won't be the end of big enterprises, or big bureaucracies (especially, alas, the latter) but it will represent a dramatic reversal of recent history, toward more cottage industry, more small enterprises and ventures, and more empowerment for individuals willing to take advantage of the tools that become available. In some ways, the future may look more like the distant past than the recent past. It's not surprising that it may also seem to operate on a more human scale.

I am no fortune teller but this is a very interesting article about trends in the world.

I too think that the trends are toward more and smaller businesses rather then big monolithic corporations.


Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home