Date: 25 July 14
By: Frank Gue, B.Sc., MBA, P.Eng., 2252 Joyce St., Burlington, ON Canada L7R 2B5, 905 634 9538
For: Editors, The Economist, London, U(?)K
Re: ” … productivity [was] growing at around 3% per year … ” July 19, p. 33
Slowdown in productivity can be assigned to no small extent to two factors:
* Billions of good manhours per year are drained away by the seductive lure of Information Technology. It provides games, porn, movies, iTunes, smart phones, tweets, tablets ad nauseum, much of which is NVA (No Value Added) activity. Some demographic sectors acknowledge spending five and more personal hours per day looking at screens, some of it on Company time. This time must come from somewhere; much of it was once spent in useful, Value Added activity. Some of this lost time would have increased production; some would have increased productivity.
* Users struggle with badly designed and poorly executed software. The software bundled with this computer, for instance, is untested, buggy, unfriendly, error-prone, unpredictable, non-intuitive, unstable, illogical and mystifying. Many microcomputers are today the fabled thousand-dollar-doorstops as their owners have gone back to earlier generations of machines that worked. Thirty years ago it was possible, on a clunky Osborne (you’re too young to remember, aren’t you?) with (gasp!) 128K of memory, to do month-end accounts for a small business by hitting three or four keys and turning one’s back to do something else for a minute or two. Today the same function requires much longer, part of which time is spent hand-nursing the process, some likely spent repairing program errors; for instance, the unforgivable shortcoming of sorting a spreadsheet without including in the sort the logic in some of the cells.
Info Tech, once our obedient servant making remarkably improved productivity possible, has become our demanding, unforgiving master, adding no value to the economy and indeed subtracting value in many instances; and further, burning up good innovative time spent by users repairing what some idiot in Cupertino has ruined.
And what of the No Value Added activities of the financials, burning up good talent by pumping fictitious dollars into a largely fictitious GDP? Don’t ask.