Progress – Part 2 – Productivity Gains
Having worked in computer consulting for the majority of my career, I would say that automation and technology significantly increased and continues to increase worker productivity. I was kind of paid to say that in my business, but I also believe it to be true. But how much has it increased the value we get from our lives?
Bypassing the Blessing/Curse Debate
For our purposes here, let’s go with the assumption that automation has increased productivity in the past 30 – 40 years. I know there are some who say the personal computer made word processors of us all, or that e-mail and cell phones have created an electronic leash for 24-hour employees…in many ways, I don’t disagree, but overall, I think it is safe to say that it takes a lot fewer employees to produce the same output that was produced in 1983 (as described in my last blog entry).
For argument sake, lets use the department I worked in at the bank in 1983. We had 11 employees (3 officers and 8 staff) performing the work to administer expatriate benefits to our employees stationed on international assignments.
The same work could easily be done today with one or two officers and two staff members. When you add in the technical support required from the systems folks supporting the newly automated office, let’s just say this department increased it’s productivity enough to reduce staffing to a half of what it was in the early eighties.
This was a highly administrative function, and so it benefitted more from automation-based productivity gains than other types of work, so let’s just say that automation reduced staffing in this country by 25% over the course of the last 35 years. I’d say that’s a conservative estimate, but for our discussion, let’s just use that.
Here are some of the areas where I see that automation has made most folks more efficient:
- Generate, store, navigate and edit documents with ease
- Promotional Materials
- Instruction Manuals
- Web pages
- Communicate more quickly, clearly, cost-effectively and efficiently
- Electronic Messaging
- Voice and Video
- Voice Over IP
- Video Meetings
- International voice/video apps
- Cell phone
- Remote working capabilities
- Document sharing
- E-mail attachments
- Electronic signatures
- Internet publishing of documents
- Document downloads
- File sharing/editing
- Less effort required to generate the same output
- Access to a virtual and sometimes real-life social network I could have never created in the past
- Multi-functioned pocket devices that replace watches, cameras, phones, GPS, rolodexes, credit cards, computers and tv screens
- Immediate access to unimaginable amounts of data
- More work output required which possibly completely overrides any worker-related gains
- Workday extended outside standard/core work hours via expectations of availability through electronic means
- Reduced real-life interactions socially
- Reduced employment opportunities and opportunities for advancement (fewer jobs
- Misuse of data and privacy and security issues
- Confusion and difficulty discerning valid information from false
I was able to finish the Knitted Cross Stitch Scarf in emeralds and fuchsias.
And I have to say, I’m quite pleased with the result. Colors are rich and satisfying and the softness, warmth and drape are just perfect.
I also started, restarted and restarted a third time what I think will be an old shale wrap using Persimmon Tree yarn.