Sometimes the arc of change is like pulling a cart through knee deep molasses on a cold January morning. There are so many structural constraints in place, so many vested interests, so much anxiety over potential changes and add to this the inevitable authority of inertia, throw in remnants of discredited religious thinking, add dollops of junk science, fantasy science fiction and dredge up past traumas of human catastrophe that we might as well grab a front row seat and watch dust accumulate on a window pane. Then, as if watching a long arm wrestling match, someone snaps an arm and its over. And something takes its place. Thinking back to University, the old economics textbook of Lipsey, Sparks and Steiner were projecting a world of machines, automation and systems managed by a few savants with large hordes of the unwashed and the immaculately spiff and proper sitting on the sidelines with little to do except perhaps explain damage control of whether this was a socialist utopia or capitalist nightmare.
( see link at end) Margaret Wente: …We’re both relieved to be at the far end of our careers. Both higher education and the media are facing profound and wrenching transitions. …Not so long ago, everyone believed knowledge workers were generally sheltered from the more dramatic upheavals of the economy. In the past few decades, as middle-class incomes stagnated and good blue-collar jobs disappeared, the professional class did extraordinarily well. Lawyers, accountants, tenured university professors, architects and even the ink-stained wretches of the press have had pretty good lives….
But now, global competition, relentless cost pressures and technological change are hitting the professional class, too. Few will be left unscathed….
… Thomson Reuters, one of the biggest information companies in the world, bought Pangea3, a legal-process outsourcing firm with most of its lawyers in India. These lawyers do the grunt work traditionally assigned to junior lawyers in North America – document review, due diligence and contract management. Prestigious North American law firms charge $300 an hour for this kind of work. Lawyers in India charge $30 an hour. These services have been slow to catch on. But now the toothpaste is out of the tube, and revenue at India’s legal outsourcing firms is soaring. Read More:http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/opinions/opinion/the-next-job-bubble-to-burst-may-be-yours-professionals/article1939165/
…That’s the outsourcing piece. Here’s the technology piece. Thanks to advances in artificial intelligence, armies of expensive lawyers hired to analyze complex documents are being replaced by software. Legal software has become so sophisticated that it can search documents for concepts as well as specific keywords, and can even detect patterns of communication that point to white-collar crime. Who needs lawyers when your software can whip through millions of pages of paper in a couple of days, and never get sleepy?
Because of the recession, companies have slashed their legal costs. Young lawyers today are far less likely to make partner, and the market for new junior lawyers has tanked. It may never recover. Debt-burdened law students are rightly worried they may never get a decent return on their investment.
…IBM is now collaborating with Columbia University and the University of Maryland to create a Watson-like resource that will summarize a patient’s medical records and help with diagnoses. Doctors are notoriously resistant to the idea that anyone else can do their jobs as well as they can. But do you really need a doctor to renew your Lipitor or tell you that you have the flu? As health-care costs rocket to the moon, family doctors could be replaced by lower-cost physicians’ assistants, drawing on the matchless expertise of Dr. Watson….