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Is Software Driving a Falling Demand For Brains? 622

Hugh Pickens writes writes "Paul Krugman writes in the NY Times that information technology seems to be reducing, not increasing, the demand for highly educated workers (reg. may be required), because a lot of what highly educated workers do could actually be replaced by sophisticated information processing. One good recent example is how software is replacing the teams of lawyers who used to do document research. 'From a legal staffing viewpoint, it means that a lot of people who used to be allocated to conduct document review are no longer able to be billed out,' says Bill Herr, a lawyer at a major chemical company who used to muster auditoriums of lawyers to read documents for weeks on end. 'People get bored, people get headaches. Computers don't.' If true this raises a number of interesting questions. 'One is whether emphasizing education — even aside from the fact that the big rise in inequality has taken place among the highly educated — is, in effect, fighting the last war,' writes Krugman. 'Another is how we [can] have a decent society if and when even highly educated workers can't command a middle-class income.' Remember the Luddites weren't the poorest of the poor, they were skilled artisans whose skills had suddenly been devalued by new technology."

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