Wednesday, June 15

Tech puzzle

In funny happening to our tech revolution “(AFR 6th June 2016) Nouriel Roubini concludes we don’t really know for sure what is driving the puzzle of anemic growth in productivity despite living in the so called golden age of technology and innovation.

But, Roubini overlooks the increasing levels of re-work surreptitiously invading every level of our complex life to risk us becoming slaves to technology rather than its master. Hidden is the additional time spent on –line adapting to unexplained new formats or discovering bugs or unexpected outcomes.  Solutions are provided by the growing on line forums, encouraged by technology providers who underinvest in adequate support in the first instance.
One can routinely expect outages on phones or the internet which sometimes last days and amount to wasted time until a solution is finally provided which might have been avoided with adequate back or more experienced call center staff.  In an increasing complex world much more testing is required before new products or services are released when the reverse is happening. Consumers and businesses increasingly are the “guinea pigs”, forced to waste precious time identifying faults or bugs which should have sorted out beforehand. This is rather obviously more economical to the suppliers but bad for productivity Additionally when things fail electronically we upgrade only to find many applications now aren’t compatible so the pattern of re -work continues.

Another aspect often overlooked is that the pace of change in terms of new ground breaking discoveries in our modern economies has slowed to crawl compared to that which occurred in the last few centuries. What has increased exponentially instead is the amount of information available and the ease by which this is communicated on the internet with the aid of advanced communicative devices.  One might argue however we are at risk of a “dumbing down” of society as devices are now programmed to routinely tell us what to do and attend to day to day chores without needing to pay attention to the elements or figure out commonsense solutions of our own accord.     On a broader scale the long term economic effects of the tech revolution on employment remain widely debated. In the past major new scientific discoveries impacted positively on just about every level of employment and on our overall well-being albeit there was some severe dislocations as the old gave way to the new.
But the tech sector only accounts for about 10% of GDP in advanced economies and applications to improve outcomes in the larger service sectors such as in health and education have proven to be meagre. This is possibility one important factor as to why we going to be stuck in a period of very low growth in what is described as a golden era of new technology and innovation.  We are told we are living in rapid era of change. But a lot of that change is having to repeat tasks because they were programmed incorrectly in the first place. Maybe we could move back to an old fashioned innovation to “get it done right the first time’’- which would be a new innovation for the burgeoning tech sector.  


susan said...

Hi Lindsay,

You've written another very interesting piece about the problems affecting economic growth. Besides the re-work aspect of modern technology (I agree and could provide a few examples of my own) another thing not addressed is that half of the world's wealth is in the grip of a handful of people and held in overseas accounts to pay no taxes at all - a situation set to continue to grow for a long time. Every solution has its road blocked to allow the continuation of the grab for the world's power and wealth by this elite and all they need for that is to maintain the status quo, which is what we see. The economy is growing, but it's happening at the wrong end.

There are already major signs of serious trouble coming if this inequality isn't addressed effectively. Unfortunately, I don't see the elites giving up their power and enormous wealth willingly even though they would also be better off in a more egalitarian world. We can keep our fingers crossed.

All the best

♥ N o v a said...

It's so ironic that I read this article yesterday as I waiting for hours on end for my computer at work to be "fixed" in order for a particular program to work that prints envelopes. The amount of time I waited for the tech department to fix my computer, I could have easily hand-written the envelopes and have been more productive.

Lindsay Byrnes said...

Hi Susan
Not that I don’t think the comparisons are alarming, the headline in publications such as the Guardian give one the impression the 62 richest billionaires own as much wealth as 50% of the total global wealth or 50% of the population which of course is nowhere near the mark.
A recent Oxfam article said “the 62 richest billionaires own as much wealth as the poorer half of the world’s population. As you would be aware the poorer half’s wealth skews the total as only a fraction of the wealthier other half since it includes sizable populations in poorer nations who exist without having any individual wealth at all. The per capita income of Africa is about $4,500 per year and there some countries as low as about $500pa reliant still on subsistence type farming.
Lower corporate tax taxation is also a big factor (e.g. in Switzerland it is only about 6%) to incentivise tax minimisation (within the law) and evasion (outside the law) but the more significant factor in my view is the reluctance of the tech movers to ensure the rest of world prospers more generally from their innovations. This happened in the past with major breakthroughs as new discoveries and improved methods and discoveries were adopted but is lacking in this so called golden era.
At the moment even the developed world is struggling to keep up with all of this tech change, let alone the developing world.
Best wishes

Lindsay Byrnes said...

Hi Nova
Not an isolated incidence I am sure. I picked up our local newspaper the other day only to read of a local business whose telephone was accidentally deactivated by their provider and which took 11 days to be re-instated whilst there business lost thousands in crucial income. My daughter recently waited days for her internet to be re connected for their home business and I have experienced long delays which ended up just being an easily fixed loose outside street connection. I understand the position in the UK with internet connections is poor.
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