Brooks and Krugman

In “The New Romantics in the Computer Age” Bobo babbles that the tasks where humans will continue to stand out above technology are mostly soft and squishy relational stuff.  In the comments “gemli” from Boston had this to say:  “Here we have some very practical advice for living in the modern world, assuming, of course, that you don’t have to eat or buy a house.”  Prof. Krugman considers “Other People’s Dollars, and Their Place in Global Economics” and says the countries behind greenbacks, Aussies, loonies and kiwis all weathered economic storms better than most of the rest of the world.  Here’s Bobo:

Just once I’d like to have a college student come up to me and say, “I really wanted to major in accounting, but my parents forced me to major in medieval art.” That probably won’t happen. It always seems to be the parents who are pushing their children in the “practical” or mercenary direction.

These parents are part of the vast apparatus — college résumés, standardized tests, the decline of humanities majors — that has arisen to make our culture more professional and less poetic.

But you see a counterreaction setting in. You see, here and there, signs of a new romanticism.

Ironically, technological forces may be driving some of the romantic rebirth. As Geoff Colvin points out in his book “Humans Are Underrated,” computers will soon be able to do many of the cognitive tasks taught in places like law schools and finance departments.

Computers can already go through millions of legal documents and sort them for relevance to an individual case, someday allowing one lawyer to do the work of 500. Computers may soon be able to cruise through troves of data and offer superior financial advice. Computers are not only getting smarter at systems analysis, they are improving at rates no human can match.

Colvin argues that improving your cognitive skills is no longer good enough. Simply developing more generic human capital will not help people prosper in the coming economy. You shouldn’t even ask, What jobs can I do that computers can’t do? That’s because they are getting good at so many disparate things. You should instead ask, What are the activities that we humans, driven by our deepest nature or by the realities of daily life, will simply insist be performed by other humans?

Those tasks are mostly relational. Being in a position of authority or accountability. Being a caregiver. Being part of a team. Transactional jobs are declining but relational jobs are expanding.

Empathy becomes a more important workplace skill, the ability to sense what another human being is feeling or thinking. Diabetes patients of doctors who scored high on empathy tests do better than patients with low-empathy doctors.

The ability to function in a group also becomes more important — to know how to tell stories that convey the important points, how to mix people together.

Secure workers will combine technical knowledge with social awareness — the sort of thing you get from your genes, from growing up in a certain sort of family and by widening your repertoire of emotions through reflection, literature and a capacity for intimacy.

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3 Responses to “Brooks and Krugman”

  1. F. E. Says:

    Good grief, Bobo is such a twit. You can easily picture him as a Victorian lord, lifting his scented lace handkerchief to his delicate nose. I sure am glad Krugman writes too.

  2. Ruth Calvo Says:

    Krugman does a lot of myth-busting, which shows how prevalent economic ideology is among our popular pushers of proposed policies. This is a little scary, and makes it a challenge for the public actually to see right from wrong action, and political action that is against their actual interests.

  3. Mike Flanagan Says:

    Brooks may be sorting through the failures of his life and wistfully dreaming his folks hadn’t pushed him to pen in hand. Does he lift a finger to even imagine how much dedication it takes to be a top engineer. They actually have to deal with the world as it is not idly making up nonsense to spew on newscasts. You know the iconic Sunday morning round tables would do the rest of us a favor by giving each participant a toy to muse over rather than share their philosophy of the world. To paraphrase O’Reilly’s quip with regard to scientific evidence of climate change sums it up – the Bible says the sun comes up and the sun goes down, that’s enough evidence for me that science is a crock! It’s all in the bible. That’s all I have to know.

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