04 February 2014

You Get a RetroGrade of F

Today's NYT brings yet another context-free Brooks column, wherein he makes yet more claims of a rosy future. Sort of.

He starts by trashing previously gold standard smarts, then poses the rhetorical query:
But what human skills will be more valuable?

So, what are his candidates?
... people who can recognize and alertly post a message on Twitter about some interesting immediate event

Say what? This rises above understanding thermodynamics, or partial differential equations? I guess so.
Technology has rewarded graphic artists who can visualize data, but it has punished those who can't turn written reporting into video presentations.

I suppose he loves pie charts. It appears he hasn't gotten the memo, both from smart management and smart worker bees: no more PowerPoint decks. Being a total reactionary, Brooks is out of the loop.

Anyway, here's his ordered list. I won't duplicate the paragraphs devoted to each. If you've the stomach, go for it.
First, it rewards enthusiasm.
Second, the era seems to reward people with extended time horizons and strategic discipline.
Third, the age seems to reward procedural architects.
(Seems to be, fourth) So a manager who can organize a decentralized network around a clear question, without letting it dissipate or clump, will have enormous value.
Fifth, essentialists will probably be rewarded.

Mostly, you can't really be a Twitterite (under First) and have any of the other qualities. Immersed in social media is now defined as "work"? Perpetually distracted, but long term focused? The second most complete oxymoron, after happily married (OK, I know...).

If that sounds like a thumbnail sketch of Dubya; Yes, yes it does. The future belongs, and the mightiest rewards go, to content free cheerleaders? That's the future? Oh my.

For those of a certain age, or know someone of a certain age, particularly those that saved old "Popular Science" and "Popular Mechanics" issues, may remember that both magazines were known for predicting how life would be so much better in 50 years, the millennium. Automation generally, and computers specifically, would relieve *all of us* of the drudge work, leaving us to be creative and leisurely for yet longer lives. I don't have such a stash, only memories of the issues. But, here's one site with some examples.

This site is more completist.

What none of these deal with, I suppose by Utopian assumption, is that animate processes lead to concentration, not dispersion. Name any significant human problem of the day, and you're inevitably led back to the divergence of the enfranchised and the disenfranchised. Inequality is the prime result of animate progress. The problem is that, unlike lower forms of life which obey external rules of survival, some of us get to make the rules which the rest of us must endure. The dystopian wins over the utopian; the future is always darker than you can imagine.

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