Okay. Now it’s official. WIRED magazine’s cover story for February is about offshoring, so it must be for real. The article, “The New Face of the Silicon Age,” is pretty interesting with interviews of IT types in both India and the US. But the author, Daniel Pink, emphasizes this is about the global economy, not just IT.
Eventually Pink gets around to the question that’s been on my mind for a long time: What does the American culture have to offer as value-added that isn’t easy to duplicate en masse lots of places? The answer: innovation and creativity. He says:
And therein lies the opportunity for Americans. It’s inevitable that certain things – fabrication, maintenance, testing, upgrades, and other routine knowledge work – will be done overseas. But that leaves plenty for us to do. After all, before these Indian programmers have something to fabricate, maintain, test, or upgrade, that something first must be imagined and invented. And these creations must be explained to customers and marketed to suppliers and entered into the swirl of commerce in a fashion that people notice, all of which require aptitudes that are more difficult to outsource – imagination, empathy, and the ability to forge relationships. After a week in India, it seems clear that the white-collar jobs with any lasting potential in the US won’t be classically high tech. Instead, they’ll be high concept and high touch.
Okay. Next question: What’s it take for a society to have that and sustain it for a long time? The global economy and culture is really just getting started, so living in a society where prosperity comes from sustainable innovation is going to need to be pretty special for generations. Can a nonprofit like ACS assume we’re not in this game too?