Productivity Decoupled from Employment

April 27, 2013

Erik Brynjolfsson’s TED talk “Race with the Machines” has a powerful idea. Due to technological advances, human work has become decoupled from wealth and our productivity decoupled from employment. In turn this leads to an ineffectiveness of traditional ways of measuring the economy — especially as a way of viewing innovation.

http://www.ted.com/talks/erik_brynjolfsson_the_key_to_growth_race_em_with_em_the_machines.html

Lots to think about here. Another “distribution problem”? His point related to the industrial revolution is especially fascinating…. it took about thirty years (e.g. all the managers had to retire) for factory procedures to change when electricity was introduced. While the managers were in place, the factories ran as they had done with steam power – not taking advantage of what the new power source had to offer. The same 30-year cycle appears to be necessary to make best use of computers.

Are MOOCs an example? I certainly understand the arguments that MOOCs are incomplete. But couldn’t MOOCs be a valuable part of a new model, that includes teachers in a somewhat “guide on the side” role with the MOOC content being the central organizer. A different post-secondary economy would be required but maybe the new managers will see it that way — looking more at learning and less at the notion of formal education. Those who really hate MOOCs, often pointing to high dropout rates, lack of support and variable quality, seem to me to be missing the potential of MOOCs (or similar environments) to assist learning. Should we get rid of books since, after all, a person might start to read one, not like it and decide to move on to something else?

Update on May 6 – Bonnie Stewart’s interesting blog post!
http://www.insidehighered.com/blogs/university-venus/not-hand
“….MOOCs started, in a sense, as a recognition that the credentialing equation was hollow…

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