So računalniki krivi za upadanje rasti produktivnosti?

Rast produktivnosti se trendno upočasnjuje. O tem, da ekonomisti za to nimamo zadovoljujoče razlage, sem že pisal tukaj. Imamo en kup parcialnih teorijc, v bistvu pa se nikomur ne sanja, zakaj se kljub tehnološki revoluciji (IT), avtomatizaciji in robotizaciji proizvodnje ter selitvi delovno intenzivne proizvodnje proti Jugu ali Vzhodu, kar vse zmanjšuje obseg delovne sile v proizvodnji in bi načeloma moralo povečevati produktivnost dela doma, rast slednje kljub temu trendno upočasnjuje.

No, Tim Harford je pred tedni prišel z novo teorijo, ki se na prvi pogled zdi butasta, ker je v nasprotju z vsem, kar bi intuitivno pričakovali. Pravi, da rast produktivnosti upada ne KLJUB, pač pa ZARADI množične uvedbe pametnih telefonov in računalnikov. Njegova teza je, da splošna razširjenost računalnikov zmanjšuje stopnjo specializacije, ker zdaj lahko vsak sam napiše pismo, naredi preračune, pripravi prezentacijo, on-line plača račune, prej pa so to počeli specialisti. Ob tem pa nas pametni telefoni in računalniki s konstantnimi distrakcijami (nova pošta, facebook, twitter sporočila, instagram itd.) odvračajo od dela in nas delajo manj produktivne.

Verjamete v to teorijo? Najbrž ne. Splošna uvedba računalnikov je skrajšala čas administrativnih in poslovnih procesov, pohitrila poslovanje in zmanjšala število potrebne delovne sile, kar gre v prid potencialnega povečanja prodktivnosti. Je pa res, da so z instantno povezavo na internet, računalniki postali ubijalci fokusiranja na delo.

Nekaj drugega bo, kar zavira sodobno rast storilnosti dela. In naj me vrag pocitra, če to ni povezano z manjšim deležem plač v razdelitvi BDP ter skrivanjem dobičkov (prek transfernih cen ali inovativnih metod davčne optimizacije) po računih v tujini. Če bi dvignili plače zaposlenih in manj proizvodnje outsourcali v tujino, bi lahko v tujino odlili manj dobičkov, več dodane vrednosti bi ostalo doma, s tem pa bi bila višja tudi rast produktivnosti (dodana vrednost na zaposlenega).

Toda Harfordova teorija je bistveno bolj zabavna.

A few weeks before Christmas, an impish chart appeared on the Bank of England’s unofficial blog. It compared plunging productivity with the soaring shipments of smartphones. Typical productivity growth in advanced economies had hovered steadily around 1 per cent a year for several decades, but has on average been negative since 2007. That was the year the iPhone started to ship.

The costs of this distraction are starting to become apparent. I wrote recently about the research of Gloria Mark of the University of California, Irvine. Prof Mark argues that reorientating yourself after an interruption tends to take between 20 and 25 minutes. We all know how a moment’s inattention can turn into a clickhole of distractions. She also points out that once we get used to being interrupted by others, we start interrupting ourselves, twitchily checking email or social media in the hope something interesting might turn up.

The rise of the computer complicates this story. Computers can certainly continue the process of specialisation, parcelling out jobs into repetitive chunks, but fundamentally they are general purpose devices, and by running software such as Microsoft Office they are turning many of us into generalists.

In a modern office there are no specialist typists; we all need to be able to pick our way around a keyboard. PowerPoint has made amateur slide designers of everyone. Once a slide would be produced by a professional, because no one else had the necessary equipment or training. Now anyone can have a go — and they do.

But for other workers, general-purpose computers push back against Smith’s concern. Design a pretty graph, search the internet for cartoons for a presentation, use a price-comparison site to book some travel, craft an eloquent post on LinkedIn, and office life starts to look mildly entertaining — even if there isn’t much time left to do the jobs for which we’re paid. Setting games and social media aside, there are plenty of ways for workers to use their computers to do their jobs less efficiently while having more fun, perhaps without even meaning to.

Vir: Tim Harford

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