Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Ryan Dunn, Daredevil Comedian of ‘Jackass,’ Dies at 34 - NYTimes.com

Ryan Dunn, Daredevil Comedian of ‘Jackass,’ Dies at 34 - NYTimes.com

It's a sad day in entertainment. RIP Ryan. You and your cohorts made me smile.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Technology and the future of jobs and work

Not many people are shedding tears for lawyers displaced by the software that can search discovery documents, saving clients millions of dollars in billable time for the most complex legal cases. One lawyer at a chemical company told the New York Times about this innovation: “People get bored, people get headaches. Computers don’t.” Technology renders the task of reading rooms full of legal documents into a simple database search. Computers have become more intelligent to incorporate context and use linguistics to help users find and retrieve the veritable “needle in the haystack” from gigabytes and terabytes of storage.

In many respects, this will create upheaval in industries that required many people to search for that needle. It could be in the field of academia, medical research, marketing and other information intensive industries. Our economy has been an information-based economy for the past three decades as manufacturing moved offshore. Now the information business has become hyper-efficient, in large part from smarter computing, and the workforce has to think about how to position itself during this wave of innovation.

From a technological standpoint, companies do not want to be left behind in this capability to automate tasks and bring new efficiencies to benefit customers and improve the bottom line.

This represents a sea-change in work, much like the industrial revolution. If you think about it, Facebook has a $50 billion market valuation and only 2,000 employees. Wal-Mart, the nation's largest private employer, has over 2.1 million employees worldwide and a market valuation of $187 billion. In other words, Facebook is valued at $25 million per employee. Wal-Mart, which has revenue of $420 billion or about the same as the entire output of Sweden's economy, is valued at $89,000 per employee. Valuations are sometimes a dodgy prospect, since there are assumptions about growth rates.

The point that's being made here is that wealth is not necessarily determined by the size of an enterprise. Businesses are doing more with less and we will need to adapt to that new reality. Just as the car rendered horse carriages obsolete, our culture needs to think about what will be valued in the new economy.