What's the Latest Development?

Throughout an economic crisis, the kind we have been under for years now, it is healthy to wonder what sorts of jobs will be necessary in tomorrow's economy, allowing structural changes in employment to occur gradually. But some futurists' predictions border on absurdity, says English professor Mark Jacobs. A Microsoft researchers said recently, 'The essential skills will be those of rapidly searching, browsing, assessing quality, and synthesizing the vast quantities of information. In contrast, the ability to read one thing and think hard about it for hours will...be of far less consequence for most people.'

What's the Big Idea?

Jacobs says the researcher's prediction makes the common mistake of assuming that the future will resemble our leisure of the present. Synthesizing information is essentially what people do when they use the Internet, but what sorts jobs will need humans to aggregate information? "It seems to me," says Jacobs, "that, whatever the job descriptions of the future turn out to be, and however much they rely on the mastery of online technologies, patience and self-reflectiveness are going to be in much shorter supply than quickness of judgment."

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