An interview with Richard Samson, consultant, expert on mental skills, human effectiveness and user interfaces, and author of “Mind Over Technology, Coming Out on Top as a Wired World Starts to Run on Automatic.” Richard Samson shared his thoughts with us about his book, and talks a little about how our biggest problem in business today, can become our greatest strength.
Thanks for sharing some thoughts about your book with us today, Richard. And I guess we’re all wondering right off the bat, what is this big threat you are outlining in your book Mind over Technology?
Simply put, it’s what I call “off-peopling”. As my book explains, employment is becoming more uncertain for one simple, yet largely unrecognized reason. Just as machinery took over muscle work in the industrial era, today’s information-age tools are taking over mind work. Earlier, people adjusted by shifting from manual to know-how work. But that won’t work this time, since know-how is the very thing being usurped.
Sounds like you’re making some grim predictions in your book?
Well, yes, going beyond off-shoring and outsourcing, off-peopling is the complete transfer of human functions — including high-tech and managerial ones — into all-automatic systems. Off-peopling can ruin everything. And the solution isn’t simply to train people for higher-level jobs. We don’t need nine million biotech researchers. And almost any tech job you learn will be volatile. Let’s say you train to become a programmer or web designer. Overnight your work could be transferred to India or a Web Services application. And today’s employment insecurity is being aggravated by another factor: “technogreed.” Technogreed is plain old greed joined with a technical opportunism that is having corrosive effects, which can be seen in the swelling ranks of white-collar working poor.
So what solution does your books offer us?
“Mind Over Technology” tells what the coming jobs are and how to prepare yourself and your children for them. It also explains how to transform any company, large or small, into a “highly human” success story
What is “highly human” work?
“Highly human” work is the wave of the future. And “highly human” companies are the ones that will survive and thrive in tomorrow’s corporate culture. The book identifies creativity and six other “highly human” skills that will increasingly set people apart from the competition. My book also suggests what kinds of jobs call will for these highly human skills, and gives suggestions for how to make your existing job, more “highly human” and thus more valuable and secure over the long term. Finally, Mind Over Technology seven “highly human” wealth-building strategies for companies and individual entrepreneurs.
Can you give us a few specifics?
Well, altering the reward formula in business could make a huge difference. Imagine the entire workforce enthusiastically looking for ways to do more in less time, to eliminate steps, to adopt the next high-tech thing and make their boring jobs go away. Something like Moore’s Law could take hold and we could see accelerated introduction of things like factory robotics and automated systems everywhere.
What is Moore’s Law?
Moore’s Law states that the number of transistors on a microchip doubles every 18 months. Translated into human terms, new technology, plus enthusiastic change-prone people are a recipe for transforming the nation and the world.
Can you tell us a few of the highly human skills in your book that will help us meet this new employment challenge?
The basic idea is to help people move from know-how work –- now being off-shored and transferred to all-electronic systems –- to a new level of work that leverages “hyper-human” skills that computers can’t handle well if at all. These are: Conscious perception and motor control, wanting, valuing and intending pursuing ethical objectives, love, friendliness, and other positive feelings and behaviors, creativity and imagination, subjective decision making, and hypothesizing and developing good social skills.
So can you sum up, in a nutshell, what the positive message is in your book?
In essence, developing human skills means that people will start getting paid for “being alive,” because all of the above skills spring from the main distinction between us and computers: We’re alive and they aren’t. Jobs will stop being so routine, dull and repetitive, and morph toward creativity, value-based decision making, increased helpfulness to customers and so on. In order for that to happen, business needs to focus on more than the near-term bottom line. Corporations must recapture their more human past. Many companies used to be like families, closely bonded and synergistic.
They can be again; in fact, the future may demand it. Individual companies can go only so far alone, however. Industry agreements and federal legislation are needed to create a level playing field that once again favors the middle-class workforce. Also, the wealth gap needs to be narrowed. With that foundation, Grid computing can take off and make things hum. Disaster averted, we can sail swiftly to the golden age that can and should be ours.
Why were you uniquely qualified to write this book?
I am director of the EraNova Institute, a New Jersey think tank, and I’ve published 10 books on related subjects, such “The Mind Builder,” “Problem-Solving Improvement” and “Creative Analysis.” And I’ve worked or years as a management consultant specializing in mental skills, human effectiveness and user interfaces or such companies as IBM, AT&T, Cisco and other leading-edge firms.
Are you writing another book now?
Yes, I’m working on a book called “The Human Edge,” focusing more specifically on how to maximize your human skills.
Where can we find your book?
It may be ordered from Amazon.com, Borders.com, Alibris.com, BookSurge.com, bookstores, or by dialing 866-308-6235. And there is a 19-page excerpt available on my website at http://www.eranova.com.
Interview is Copr. © 2004 by Neotrope® and Christopher Laird Simmons.