That’s the question that directs my research. We have made a great many of assumptions, and produced a number of theories over the years regarding the relationship between technology, work and organizations. Most of these assumptions and theories have run into a few bumps when information technologies are concerned.
So where are we headed, as our capacity to automate work increases? Are we running out of things to do? Or do increasingly capable, and (gasp) intelligent technologies simply take our work and organizations in direction we never anticipated?
As someone who has been exposed to a fair amount of research in the management realm, I am often shocked/awed/dismayed by the use of psychological testing in the hiring process. These tests play a statistical game that really should only be played by those understanding the rules.
When I see these new products in the world of genetic data, like 23andME, I get a little concerned. We might as well accept at this point in time that someday, you will exchange these kind of data either before or after an employment agreement. Many people would consider the privacy factor too overwhelming to expect genetic information to be part of the employment process, but the facts of the reality suggest that private employers are not bound by the same rules for private data as many assume. We are often and quite legally monitored at work, depending upon the state in which we are employed, we can be fired for our political beliefs (even if those beliefs are expressed outside of the workplace).
Anyhoo. Arrington, over at TechCrunch, released some screen shots and thoughts on his test data courtesy 23andME. As the tests that underlie these kind of services grow in size and focus, the data will only get more “reliable.” Firms can and will hire on the basis of the odds expressed in these results.
The WSJ raised some eyebrows today by highlighting some of the techniques tech companies use to maintain different regional price markets for the nearly identical products. Examples include power supplies with voltage limits (Apple and Nintendo) and inkjet cartridges that buddy up only with regionally similar printers (HP). Its only a matter of time before biotech goes the way of the tech firm, but in an even more creative manner.
The genetic engineering of food stuffs is a science that breeds a whole dynamic of response from foodies the world over. In the wake of our renewed interest in manipulating genes, governments are passing laws defining just what can and cannot be sold in their countries. In essence, we stepping closer and closer to regionally coding the genes of the food we will eat.
For the better proportion of the last few hundred thousand years, or so, corn has been…well.. corn. Sure, you might have had white corn, feed corn speckled corn and those little candy corns. But the differences between corn styles were clear to the consumer and only rarely did a government outlaw candy corn.
As we head into this next millenium however, the differences between corns, soybeans, or any other kind of veggie your mother used to make you eat, are becoming ever the more subtle and complex. Varietals designed to be impervious to bugs, pesticides and a suite of other ills are emerging. And as different countries push through unique legislation, for the first time in a very long time, corn may not simply be corn.
We already see some of the market consequences as organic veggies carry higher prices. But now think of something a bit more engineered and stockholder-oriented. Like the drugs on our shelves, governments will be lobbied to approve only certain genetic alterations. Beyond patent protections, these lobbying efforts will involve the legislative approval of only certain designs, or the legislative disapproval of most other designs. A well-placed patent, combined with a legislative backboard could be combined to convert commodities into mini-monopolies.