With OutSourcing you try to push functions of your activity to other organizations. The argument is that these organizations can be :

  • cheaper (either due to
    • being located somewhere with cheaper labour,
    • having EconomiesOfScale for servicing many customers
    • having more expertise and experience)
  • you can more flexibly bring these suppliers on and off line
  • you can more flexibly swap between suppliers competing on price and quality

However, out-sourcing can go horribly wrong. Sometimes the communication is ineffective or more expensive than you imagine. If so, this is an example of a ModularityMistake. More on OutSourcingAsAModularityMistake

Also UkGovernmentOutsourcingDisasters

Hi Phil here is a Slashdot's discussion for you: Smart Systems Threaten More Jobs Than Outsourcing .

With all your AI studies and your socialist attitude it's strange that there still is no page on ThoughtStorms about AI taking jobs from humans. – ZbigniewLukasiak

Thanks. I don't have a problem with machines taking jobs from humans. (Although we should note the possible problems from increasing the energy consumption and dependency.)

I guess the nearest pages are AutomatingMechanicalJobs and ProductivityOfKnowledgeWork but maybe there's room for a page focussed on this.

PhilJones

But when machines take jobs from humans it is in fact the machine owners who take the jobs. Just imagine a world where the whole work is done only by robots. The whole wealth and power in such a world would be concentrated in the hands of people who funded and built those robots in the first place and it will never change. And that seems to be quite a probable future. A longer essay on that possibility: Robotic freedomZbigniewLukasiak

This is exactly why governments should fund research into usefully efficient machines and ensure that the associated intellectual 'property' is publically owned. Then we can have companies competing over the details of 'delivery' of the new techology but the core efficiency benefits will 'belong' to everyone.

The idea that new technology will concentrate wealth is totally dependent on how we apply intellectual property concepts. IP law should ultimately be designed to improve the benefits to society offered by new technology. If the benefits are only going to a few then the IP laws are shooting ourselves in the foot ... and should be changed.

OliSharpe

"we can have companies competing over the details of 'delivery' of the new techology but the core efficiency benefits will 'belong' to everyone."

If technological concepts are publically owned, but methods of delivery to the public are not, and are therefore subject to standard IP laws, then does anything really change? Is there a difference, in terms of control over the technology and how available it is to "society", between the theory and the practice? (Yes, there may be less or no barriers to entry for people to provide alternative services, but this be still restricted by the forces of patent law.)

"If the benefits are only going to a few then the IP laws are shooting ourselves in the foot ..."

Don't forget, of course, that the various IP-related laws are now heavily influenced by those who benefit most from them - witness the repeated extension of copyright for instance, and I doubt that this influence would be as much as it is if the IP laws weren't in place.

I oft wonder if our technological progress isn't directly related to our not-quite-capitalist workings, and that if we were to drastically alter the composition of our society (e.g. by installing a more left-leaning government in order to make IP laws less "targetted") then what "level" (i.e. what can it do) and "spread" (i.e. who uses it) of technology we would have. Some people here may prefer to see a less hedonistic, more utilitarian approach to science (well, personally, I think I'm certainly coming round to such a view), but the societal power that pushes for more outsourcing and "greater" technology is already "in the hands of people who funded and built those robots in the first place", to quote Zbigniew. The good news is that change always comes when you least expect it...

GrahamLally

Ok, answers to everyone, reverse order :

Graham, I think Oli's requirement for IP reform includes patents etc. It would have to be fairly radical.

"I oft wonder if our technological progress isn't directly related to our not-quite-capitalist workings"

Well, it probably is. Though, I'm not totally convinved that we have much good evidence that IP laws help progress. Yes we can correlate societies with strong IP with a lot of technical innovation, but we don't have enough data points to exclude lots of other rival explanations.

Oli, pretty much agree.

Zbigniew, response coming soon ...

PhilJones

"IP reform includes patents etc"

I'm not sure it helps anything to gather everything together under one big "IP" banner - probably for the same reasons that the courts don't do so... For instance, on one hand we have money-spinning, branded, "imaginative" concepts such as Mickey Mouse and stories, which are covered by copyright, whereas on the other hand we have scientific, "creative" innovation, which is supposed to be covered by patenting. The two are quite different, occupy mostly different domains of society, and are heading in different directions, culturally. (Branding is more important in the long-term, innovation moreso in the short-term as progress, potentially, increases speed.)

Just a nit-pick ;) Stopping now as it's kind of off-topic.

GrahamLally

Another nit-pick .. ;) .. because I have to say I disagree on two points you've just made:

Firstly, I think the term 'IP' is very useful to describe all approaches to creating legal 'ownership' of ideas. That patents and copyright are very different I totally agree - but both are examples of IP law (in my book at least) ... and we should constantly review how we set up such IP laws to ensure that we are getting the benefits we intended from all such laws.

Secondly, I have to say that I see innovation as being much more important .. and more long term... than branding. The invention of the petrol engine driven car is far more significant than the brandings of Ford or Rover or Mercedes or which ever other brand may come and go.

Innovation changes the types of fabric available for clothes ... brands affect the fashion this summer. It's the innovation that keeps us warm in the wild .. not the Gortex brand.

–OliSharpe

JohnSeelyBrown and JohnHagel : http://www.flickr.com/photos/edyson/5377890/

  • Hagel picks up: "Most companies are an unnatural bundle of three different kinds of businesses - customer relationship, product or service innovation and commer- cialization, and infrastructure management," says Hagel. "The economics, culture and the competences for each of them are entirely different, and it no longer makes sense for them to stay together. The kinds of dislocations and shifts we're seeing now - outsourcing and offshoring, partnerships that don't work, diminishing returns on efficiency - are all signs of these shifts."

See also :