Tuesday, December 17, 2013

My grandsons - making it in the brave new world - part I

I will be going soon to Austin Texas, to spend the holiday with my son's family, who live in the same house I grew up in. Every grandfather says this, but I have to also say a how incredulous I am at the vastly different a world my two year old grandson and his younger brother will face than the one I grew up in, a period of continuously expanding opportunities from the late 1940s to the late 1960s. The same Univ. of Wisconsin assistant professorship I took as a 27 year old would now go only to someone much older, who would most likely have to settle for a non-tenure position, if even that were available. With the partition of our economy into a service sector whose employees can't support a family and an educated, computer savvy, creative, managing elite, an extraordinary set of skill are now required to 'make it.' David Brooks presents a list of mental types that might thrive in a world in which we we must interface with intelligent machines:

Freestylers - who can play with the computer but know when to overrule it (as you sometimes overrule your GPS in neighborhoods you are familiar with).

Synthesizers - who surf vast amounts of data to crystallize a pattern or story.

Humanizers - who make the human-machine interplay feel more natural.

Conceptual engineers - who come up with creative methods to think about unexpected problems.

Motivators - who can inspire efforts on behalf of machines that are more naturally generated in the service of other humans.

Moralizers - who keep performance metrics from being reduced to productivity statistics that devalue personal moral traits like loyalty and end up destroying morale and social capital.

Greeters - who provide personalized services to the 15 percent of workers who 'make it' (have lots of disposable income).

Economizers - who advise the bottom 85 percent how to preserve rich lives on a small income.

Weavers - who try to deal with the social disintegration, disaffected lifestyles, that are a consequence of the inegalitarian facts of this new world.

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