The future of work

by Russ Roberts on June 11, 2007

in Podcast, Work

In the latest EconTalk episode, I talk with Dan Pink about the ideas in his book, A Whole New Mind. Dan argues that technology and outsourcing will increase the economic value of various right-brain characteristics such as empathy, aesthetics, big picture and contextual thinking and so on. It’s an attempt to figure out how the work place might evolve if left brain thinking becomes much less expensive due to outsourcing or less marketable due to technology.

He’s on to something. And some of the examples of how the marketplace has already responded show how the pessimists such as Blinder and others are scaring people unnecessarily. I liked the book a lot—Dan writes very well. He also speaks well. Check out the podcast.

Coming next week, David Weinberger talks about his book, Everything is Miscellaneous: The Power of the New Digital Disorder.

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Mickey Klein June 11, 2007 at 3:03 pm

A program is only as smart as the author, the computer in and of itself has no analytical ability. As technology gets more complex even more left brain thinking will be required to push the envelope. Pure mathematical thinking has never been as rewarded as in the tech boom.

Jon June 11, 2007 at 3:25 pm

It would seem that the easier it becomes to simply crunch numbers, the more creative people will have to be to make use of such data and to properly apply it to their situation. I hate to say it but I'm not sure if his conclusions are right. Doesn't this kinda reduce us to a Deus Ex Machina in the realm of business?

shawn June 11, 2007 at 8:25 pm

…so as a landscape architect, I'm doin' alright? Whew…and all this time, I've been wanting to become an economist…or a lawyer…

But I guess they're right-brainers too…

TGGP June 11, 2007 at 8:54 pm

Right-brained people are most skilled at self-congratulation. They can probably count on the government to support their unmeasurable contributions though.

I should note that I'm left-handed and therefore should be right-brained, but I find left-brained people much less annoying.

skh.pcola June 12, 2007 at 4:46 am

The entire "left-brain, right-brain" trope is a myth. As Rosie would say, "Google it!" In this particular case, it's not a bad idea, since this concept has been debunked by so many rocket surgeons. Or brain engineers. Whatever.

shawn June 12, 2007 at 7:32 am

…and yet, the point is still relevant. (in keeping with made up words/phrases…) irregardless (wow…ff doesn't know that that isn't a word…get with the program Mozilla!), creative capital is still more valuable, and will continue to be so.

anon June 12, 2007 at 9:38 am

According to Grossman, Rossi-Hansberg, tasks are most easily offshored when they (1) require little or no tacit knowledge and (2) are easily described by rules-based logic. This would seem to correlate fairly well with Pink's "left brain vs. right brain" distinction.

Steve June 12, 2007 at 12:07 pm

Another great podcast! I am noticing a pattern. I think your best podcasts tend to be with writers and journalists. Last weeks podcast with Amity Shlaes was one of my all time favorites. I love the economists you interview but the writers and journalists seem to be a more engaging lot. So now I am going to ask you to do an interview with an economist. How about Bill Easterly?

shawn June 17, 2007 at 6:29 pm

….this really was phenomenally interesting. I'm exceedingly and increasingly excited about my knowledge/profession (architecture) interacting with economics. Following Steve Jobs, I'll still refer to this fascination with economics as a 'hobby', as I'm not "making" anything with it, but it's becoming more and more fun to see the intertwining between my interests and my training…I'm not used to that happening. :)

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