Network News

X My Profile
View More Activity
Posted at 9:54 AM ET, 03/ 7/2011

Our depressing robot overlords

By Ezra Klein

That’s the topic du jour. As Paul Krugman writes, “the idea that modern technology eliminates only menial jobs, that well-educated workers are clear winners, may dominate popular discussion, but it’s actually decades out of date.” Increasingly, we’re learning that the difference between what computers can do and what computers cannot do is not whether the job requires a college education, but whether doing the job can be broken into “routine and repetitive” tasks. Martin Ford, who has done some thinking on these issues, draws out the implications:

The key thing to understand here is that our definition of what constitutes a “routine and repetitive” job is changing over time. At one time a repetitive job may have implied standing on an assembly line. As specialized artificial intelligence applications (like IBM’s Watson for example) get better, “routine and repetitive” may come to mean essentially anything that can be broken down into either intellectual or manual tasks that tend to get repeated. Keep in mind that it’s not necessary to automate entire jobs: if 50% of a worker’s tasks can be automated, then employment in that area can fall by half. When you begin to think in these terms, it becomes fairly difficult to make a list of jobs that (1) employ large numbers of people and (2) are completely safe from automation.

The obvious set of questions this raises is “how will the economy adapt?” Krugman argues that “if we want a society of broadly shared prosperity, education isn’t the answer -- we’ll have to go about building that society directly,” perhaps through things like unions and universal health care. Tyler Cowen offers some other suggestions.

But I’d pose a different question: How will we adapt psychologically?

A few years ago, I went searching for a science fiction story that I’d read as a kid and never forgotten. It was about a society in which most of the work of production was handled by machines, and as such, most of the members of society were classified as “artists.” The story, “Melancholy Elephants” by Spider Robinson, turned out to be more pedantic and repetitive than I’d recalled, but it’s asking the right question: How do you keep morale up in an economy when more people are simply less necessary than they used to be?

That’s a harder question to answer than “how do you make sure everyone has access to medical care?” But for a substantial fraction of the population -- not a majority, but certainly millions and millions of people -- it’s an increasingly pressing one. People get trained for a job in their 20s, and then, in their 40s, that industry gets disrupted by technology, or sent to China, and even if some of those people find jobs again, they tend to be at a lower level -- a drop in status and perceived usefulness that’s psychologically devastating. This is a question for not only the future, but given the number of long-term unemployed in the economy right now, the present. And it’s not a question that we have any very good answers for.

By Ezra Klein  | March 7, 2011; 9:54 AM ET
Categories:  Tech  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Can John Boehner change the tone on entitlements?
Next: The conservatives' case for campaign finance reform

Comments

"The key thing to understand here is that our definition of what constitutes a “routine and repetitive” job is changing over time."

I think this is a very important point.

I'd bet Krugman is probably wrong when he says that truck drivers and janitors will not be automated. That could easily happen by the time a baby born today enters the work force.

Posted by: justin84 | March 7, 2011 10:18 AM | Report abuse

Repeating a comment to Krugman: It is truly perverse that technical advances that can and ought to be boons to everyone, by reducing tedium and drudgery, turn out to be detriments -- because the advantages are preempted by Harpies (sometimes called Capitalists) who can buy and own the labor-saving technology, take the producitivity dividend for themselves, and leave the rest to scramble for whatever work is left.

And these data clearly show that it is a myth that jobs lost can always be replaced by comparable or better jobs.

It has now been about a century since we did in fact leverage labor-saving technology to actually save labor, i.e., reduce the number of workers and the hours of work -- since child labor laws and the eight-hour day. We've recently been reminded that it was largely unions that allowed those benefits by providing a countervailing force to promote the interests of workers in competition with owners.

We need to regain that perspective, one way or another.

Posted by: jtmiller42 | March 7, 2011 10:19 AM | Report abuse

Hmmm, who could it have been that pointed out Obama's focus on college level education was wrong headed, that we actually have too MANY people going to college, not too few.

Hmmm who also suggested that our unemployment situation was now systemic and not, as previously, episodic.

I'd like to meet that guy.

(of course if Krugman is starting to agree with me, then perhaps I just don't know what I'm talking about!)

Posted by: johnmarshall5446 | March 7, 2011 10:22 AM | Report abuse

Lots of "how" questions there, Ezra.

I personally feel at this point we only have ONE important question, because the system is so broke that there really truly is only ONE fix:

How do we get special interests out of our election system and our government, and that includes all branches of gvmt and all levels?

Until we manage that, all these questions about how to fix something or another or useless. We ain't fixing anything until we get big money out of gvmt and elections.

Posted by: lauren2010 | March 7, 2011 10:23 AM | Report abuse

During the recent "Oh god, we're all going to die" recession, a small town in Japan made the news. Their main source of employment was factories making parts for auto manufacturers. The layoff of workers depressed revenue at the local grocery store. To reduce costs, the management of the store replaced checkout personnel with - Hi Watson! - electronic checkout counters.

Posted by: jimvj | March 7, 2011 10:23 AM | Report abuse

Think of all the prospective new jobs in the exciting field of robot maintenance...

Posted by: Patrick_M | March 7, 2011 10:31 AM | Report abuse

Look, robots and computers seem to be a menace as long as the interests of the owners and workers are at variance. Learn to align the two, and they become indispensable aids.

Posted by: pneogy | March 7, 2011 10:35 AM | Report abuse

As usual Lauren nails it ....get the money out of our Government .

Posted by: sligowoman | March 7, 2011 10:38 AM | Report abuse

Arthur Clarke wrote several stories covering that ground.

Posted by: wiredog | March 7, 2011 10:40 AM | Report abuse

Kurt Vonnegut's first novel, "Player Piano," tackles this topic. It's not terribly well-written--definitely below his usual standard. But it also addresses the class issue. There's basically no middle class in his dystopia--there's a group of wealthy Ph.D.'s and a group of poor menial laborers. Seems like what we're heading to now...

Posted by: allen85 | March 7, 2011 10:55 AM | Report abuse

Special interests are anything than doesn't benefit me, and legitimate interests are anything that does.

If I'm over 65 Medicare is a legitimate interest, under 30 a huge special interest.

Posted by: johnmarshall5446 | March 7, 2011 10:55 AM | Report abuse

This reminds me of what Tyler Cowen says about Japan. Something to the effect that they have done a good job dealing with a mass of people with nothing to do...by creating niche products like humanoid robots, or things to keep you dry outside your office.

Wealth transfer programs as the solution job losses due to productivity gains seems like a recipe for disaster. I can't imagine that most people would find that to be a fulfilling life.

The country needs direction

Posted by: Mazzi455 | March 7, 2011 10:59 AM | Report abuse

Oh and before the knives come out for me, about 45 million people are Medicare beneficiaries in the US out of a total population of about 308 million or around 15%.

That looks pretty "special" to me!

Posted by: johnmarshall5446 | March 7, 2011 11:01 AM | Report abuse

"How do you keep morale up in an economy when more people are simply less necessary than they used to be?"

The key is to change part of the American mindset. Work is valuable and important, but it is a means to an end, not the end itself. Too many of us find our personal value measured by our jobs, but our work should only define what we do, not who we are.

Posted by: dlk117561 | March 7, 2011 11:03 AM | Report abuse

I'm not sure why this would be such a difficult problem for those who like government redistribution. At all levels of government, 37% of GDP is taken in under current tax levels during economic peaks (2000 & 2007).

Assume now that GDP grows 3% on average from 2010-2030 (basically a 2.75% trend rate plus some catch up from the last recession). If so, then in 2030 GDP will be sitting at $26.5 trillion in 2010 dollars. That gives you $9.8 trillion in tax revenue. However, tens of millions of jobs are eliminated by technology and not replaced.

Suppose $2.8 trillion will be required for all basic government functions - roads, defense, general government, regulators, interest, etc. That leaves $7 trillion for pure redistribution.

So let's assume that in 2030, there are 370 million Americans, of which 15 million are non citizens, 90 million are ages 0-17, and 265 million are adult citizens.

Provide a basic income of $24,000 per adult and $7,000 per child. That gives a family of four an income of $62,000. It gives a retired elderly couple $48,000. It would cost $6.995 trillion, plus a few extra billion in administration. Under current conditions, this type of program would destroy labor force participation and tank the economy, but it wouldn't be a problem if the economy was hyper productive and all low/middle wage jobs were automated.

There is a lot of assumption in there, but in essence, you can basically guarantee every household will be at 200%+ of the federal poverty line, and have a budget which is balanced during business cycle peaks (i.e. in better shape than now), without raising taxes, using modest assumptions about economic growth given we are also assuming the rise of intelligent machines.

Posted by: justin84 | March 7, 2011 11:07 AM | Report abuse

We need a national mission statement. I think our pursuit of hegemony is a goal that we are becoming increasingly bored with, or that is becoming to costly (financially, emotionally) to maintain.

This is a existential / spiritual problem that America is far behind the rest of the world in dealing with. Europe has a head start, WWII forcefully ended those aspirations.

Imagine if working for the poor had some currency with other people.

Posted by: Mazzi455 | March 7, 2011 11:10 AM | Report abuse

$6.995 trillion*

Actually, $6.990 trillion - typo.

90M x 7K = 630B
265M x 24k = 6360B

Posted by: justin84 | March 7, 2011 11:11 AM | Report abuse

(partly satire)
The obvious conclusion is that as we increasingly remove the need for human labor by automation. We will only need people to repair and program those machines in the future.
So the end result is that we will need less people. Look for a future with baby permits that is more like Brave New World than other dystopian ideas.

Posted by: EducatingTheFools | March 7, 2011 11:15 AM | Report abuse

"People get trained for a job in their 20s, and then, in their 40s, that industry gets disrupted by technology, or sent to China, and even if some of those people find jobs again, they tend to be at a lower level -- a drop in status and perceived usefulness that’s psychologically devastating. This is a question for not only the future, but given the number of long-term unemployed in the economy right now, the present. And it’s not a question that we have any very good answers for."

That is the heart of the matter. Glad that Ezra is speaking this. He should recall one comment in his blog posts of early days of working at WaPo. Ezra commented that it seemed like every day 'there was a send off' / lay off party at WaPo. So that is Technological Disruption.

The answer will be standard two pronged strategy - Silicon Valley style sharing of pain/gains with employees via Stock Options or Stock RSU Grants and at the same time some 'minimum standard' enforcement across the board if you want to participate in this economy like Minimum Hourly Wage, Medical Benefits, Time off, Flexible Time, Working from home and so on.

If you look at problems on this planet (the same planet on which we all live even though Sen. McConnell keeps deriding others by saying on which planet Sen. Kerry lives); I am doubtful where we will be left with any 'empty hands':
- cleaning of this Earth after the havoc of Green House gases;
- how to generate and distribute Energy which does not come from this planet but either from Sun or Nuclear reactions similar to Sun (Ezra you know that state of Civilization is defined as how Energy is created, first using resources on that planet, then using star of that system and so on);
- tending and taking care of increasing number of older people on this Earth;
- producing food to feed 9 Billion people (from current 7 B to 9 B in next few decades).

So tell me when are we going to get Krugman's Nirvana of 'no work and all fun'? I am looking for that day so that I can just keep drinking wine, solving Algebraic Topology Problems for fun, Painting and keep reading GOP Tantrums.

Posted by: umesh409 | March 7, 2011 11:17 AM | Report abuse

First off, its worth remembering that all technologies are, at their root, products of labor. Someone has to build the robots that replace us (or the robots that build the robots), not to mention design them to begin with. This will dampen the effects a bit. If enough labor is displaced, we may even see the cost of labor reduced enough that some of that production may even return to the US.

"We'll be paid peanuts to build the robots that replace us" isn't a happy thought though. But, these robots will be productive and thus produce profit for someone. The key to such a future (and I'm thinking in terms of fairly distant future), is how those profits are divvied up. If it all goes to an increasingly shrinking few, we'll probably end up with a politically and socially unstable distribution of wealth (ie, the peasants will storm Versaille).

I keep going back to one of the first things one learns in grad school, the fundamental theorems of welfare economics. There are two. The first basically says that a free market leads to the most efficient outcome. It requires a ton of assumptions to get there (that don't match the real world terribly well, which is a real blow to Libertarian arguments), but its a neat proof that does show just how amazing free market capitalism can be (in theory).

The second theorem is often neglected. It makes note of the fact that the first says nothing about distributional effects. Under the first, the efficient outcome might very well be one person gets all the money and no one else gets any. That doesn't sound very good except to the one person who gets everything.

The second theorem says that any desired wealth distribution can be obtained through the free market provided the proper initial wealth transfers take place (and you let the market take it from there). The problem there is getting people to agree on what the "desired" wealth distribution is. Yet, in the future we're discussing, figuring this out will be key. We'd need some sort of revenue sharing system to split up the profits of the productive technologies in order to create a stable wealth distribution where we don't have "peasants storming Versaille".

What amazes me is that as I think about this in terms of the fundamentals of what makes capitalism great, I end up someplace that sounds very Marxist. That is, the only way we will be able to take advantage of the incredibly efficient allocation of resources that the free market does automatically (without any central authority), we'll have to institute some major transfers of wealth from the haves to the have nots (via a central authority).

Its a strange congruence of two ideas that are usually thought to be diametrically opposed.

or maybe, after I finish my morning cup of coffee, the above will sound quite silly. Not sure, still groggy.

Posted by: Nylund154 | March 7, 2011 11:46 AM | Report abuse

As others have mentioned, shifting our sense of worth away from the work we do or our bank balances is the key to this new world.

It seems to me that other places are ahead of the US on this. Europe is one example. "Who you are" and "what you do" are not equivalent. You're expected to have multiple skills and talents, and to be capable of sustaining your side of a conversation on a wide variety of topics. Who you are is defined by the sum of all these attributes. In some places, it's even considered rude and crude to ask someone what they do for a living!

Contrast this with a typical American social gathering. What is the median time between introductions and the question, "So, what do you do?" We need to change this attitude here.

Posted by: Vikingdude | March 7, 2011 11:58 AM | Report abuse

Computers can fly planes (including takeoff and landing) and perform prostate operations. If these are considered "routine and repetitive" tasks, then we may need to rethink what "routine and repetitive" means.

Posted by: tomtildrum | March 7, 2011 12:05 PM | Report abuse

"Contrast this with a typical American social gathering. What is the median time between introductions and the question, "So, what do you do?" We need to change this attitude here."

I could not agree more. And I would argue that college-level education contributes substantial value to "who we are" and not simply to "what we do."

I can't see that increased automation in the workplace is a winning argument in favor of building a less well-educated future society.

Posted by: Patrick_M | March 7, 2011 12:18 PM | Report abuse

Kurt Vonnegut's Player Piano http://amzn.to/geaWDU deals with this issue too. In that novel, engineers are the elite, and the vast bulk of the population works in the "reeks and recs," a dreary make-work program.

More practically, Richard Florida suggests http://bit.ly/goF7tg that we need to upgrade the status and pay of service jobs, as we did 50-60 years ago with manufacturing jobs. That doesn't solve the problem of the hollowing out of knowledge-based employment, though. For that, Florida would probably frame the problem as trying to increase the ranks of what he calls the "creative class," i.e. those doing higher-level knowledge work.

Posted by: sprung4 | March 7, 2011 1:49 PM | Report abuse

"Special interests are anything than doesn't benefit me, and legitimate interests are anything that does."

That's a defeatist attitude at best, and means you don't support Democracy at worst.

If people were truly informed, I think we'd have a lot fewer problems, and that includes debt and terrorism, and more of us would feel that our personal special interests have been taken care of AND the country was healthy despite it.

Posted by: lauren2010 | March 7, 2011 1:56 PM | Report abuse

"How do you keep morale up in an economy when more people are simply less necessary than they used to be?"

CEOs value "human resources" only in terms of their use. If fewer people are needed to do a given task because of information technology, is that any different from mechanization requiring fewer bodies to make a given product? If that means fewer workers, so be it.

The only way this might be reversed is if CEOs get it into their heads they are not immune, that some day that their tasks might be done by IT as well.

Rod Serling gave a preview in the Twilight Zone episode "The Brain Center at Whipple's" broadcast May 15, 1964.

http://tzone.the-croc.com/original-twilight-zone-episode-guide.html

Posted by: tomcammarata | March 7, 2011 1:58 PM | Report abuse

Cloned from my comment at Mark Kleiman's place:

Technology should create unemployment. It’s a good thing! The only question is one of how to distribute all the wonderful stuff that automation brings, and the answer is really, really, simple: equitably.

When we’re all unemployed yet lack no material resources – and that is where we should be heading – then some of us will smoke opium all day, and others will compose symphonies. In other words, we’ll have the best of all possible worlds.

Of course, if we allow some people to grab all of the wealth, instead of distributing it equitably, well, it won’t be such a nice world after all. But that’s up to us.

Posted by: eb53 | March 7, 2011 2:16 PM | Report abuse

lauren wrote:

'If people were truly informed, I think we'd have a lot fewer problems,"


Many of us are truly informed. Certain diametrically opposed interests can't be glossed over as a battle of informed versus uninformed though.

For instance Medicare is a disaster for those under 35, and the absence of Medicare would be a disaster for those over 65. There's no information gap. It's genuine opposition of vital interests.


Posted by: johnmarshall5446 | March 7, 2011 2:17 PM | Report abuse

patrick wrote:

"And I would argue that college-level education contributes substantial value to "who we are" and not simply to "what we do."

And I woud argue that education is not limited to an institution, especially in the internet age. I tell people watch CNBC, Bloomberg or Fox Financial for 15 minutes a day, even though you have no idea what they're talking about in the beginning. It's as good an education over time as most MBA's.

Posted by: johnmarshall5446 | March 7, 2011 2:22 PM | Report abuse

"if 50% of a worker’s tasks can be automated, then employment in that area can fall by half."

Or, the same number of workers can produce twice as much.

And that's in fact what's happened again and again over the last two hundred years as technology has taken on more work.

In farming, for example, over 90% of people had to work. Today it's around 1%, and the other 90% aren't now permanently unemployed.

Posted by: RichardHSerlin | March 7, 2011 2:57 PM | Report abuse

In response to Ezra's question, what do people do when they don't have to work because machines allow them to live like kings without having any requirement to work? (Ok I've added the machines producing massive wealth part, a reasonable assumption I think if we're assuming already the machines can do all human work, and thus also robots can build robots, can build billions of robots without us having to work, and these billions of robots and computers can then build and recycle vast amounts of material wealth and scientific and medical advancement).

First, I in particular would have no problem having a fantastically pleasurable time, but that's me. What about on average? Well, I don't have time to dig up that much, but I remember seeing research showing U-shaped happiness curves with people being most happy during the times of life when work isn't a requirement, childhood and retirement.

Posted by: RichardHSerlin | March 7, 2011 3:12 PM | Report abuse

Here's my comment on Paul's column:

I can see Paul's purpose in this column, and his previous similar writings, to make the point that even the educated in today's world are made much better off, on average, with a strong safety net and progressive policies. Otherwise, they're still at substantial risk, and total societal utility will be much lower.

But it's very important to nonetheless make clear that education and training, albeit the right kind, is critically valuable and important to individuals and society. And that the advancement of computers and technology, overall, does vastly more good than bad, especially over the long run. Ultimately, it's the solution to economic problems, not an economic problem.

When computers and robots really do get human-level thinking ability, along with their massive photographic memory and lightning fast info download, we will have robots building robots building computers. Vast armies of robots/computers providing for us, quickly building a solar grid to provide limitless power for them. This is the ending of economic problems, not an economic problem. These billions of robots/computers will advance science and medicine at amazing speeds. They'll build the vacuum maglevs Paul mentioned in a blog post, everywhere. They'll mine, transport, build from, and recycle raw resources at blinding speeds, creating massive global wealth and standards of living, with little work required from us, and then they'll build networks of space elevators or launch loops all over the planet to mine the solar system.

I don't want to get too much into the issues here and now, but this is, again, essentially the ultimate solution to economic problems, not an economic problem.

That said, there are growing pains in getting from here to there. Before robots and computers get really human-high-level intelligence, they're going to knock out a lot of, for example, lawyers and accountants, whose specialty is more memory/mechanical (or routine as Autor, et. al put it), and that will be very hard for them, having invested years or decades in their skills only to see them become obsolete, and their income – that they had grown very used to – plummet.

There will be growing pains, and people who lose a lot, like the artisans of the Luddite era (hopefully the government can help cushion the blow and aid in retraining). But as happened big time after the Luddite era, over the long run, it will mean vastly more wealth, and a vastly better life for virtually everyone.

And don't forget, the return to education is still enormous, on average, just in personal income alone, not even counting the giant externalities. It will just become increasingly important to go into the less "routine" or mechanical/memory based specialties, and more into the higher level flexible thinking specialties. And we will have to be ready to consider education, and training, or re-training, a lifelong thing, not just something we do when we're youths.

Posted by: RichardHSerlin | March 7, 2011 3:17 PM | Report abuse

The government, of course, should help with this, and provide insurance to alleviate its increased risk. That is, of course, utility maximizing for society.

Posted by: RichardHSerlin | March 7, 2011 3:17 PM | Report abuse

Richard:

Your future is more dystopian than utopian. Your third paragraph is pretty bizarre stuff coming from an economist. Have you been moonlighting?

Posted by: johnmarshall5446 | March 7, 2011 3:40 PM | Report abuse

"And I woud argue that education is not limited to an institution, especially in the internet age. I tell people watch CNBC, Bloomberg or Fox Financial for 15 minutes a day, even though you have no idea what they're talking about in the beginning. It's as good an education over time as most MBA's."

-johnmarshall5446


Hi John -

Yes, I have seen your arguments in favor of watching the cable financial stuff. While I agree that is probably perfectly valid advice to make one better aware of real present day market forces and better investment strategies, I still don't think it compares with actually going through business school for anyone that wants to understand how to actually operate a business, or who plans to serve in corporate management.

Yes, some pick up that knowledge in other ways (I have personal experience in that regard), but there is no doubt that an MBA at least assures one a minimal breadth and depth of that sort of management knowledge.

I have met a number of people that do not have a degree, but whose intellectual curiosity has taken them to a great deal of self-directed study and made them well-educated. Still, in a country that has such a low level of awareness of science, history, geography, economics, political science, and foreign culture, I don't think that we will make any significant progress by advising people to be watching a few daily minutes of CNN, Fox, MSNBC (or anything else on the tube).

My very simple point here is that increasing access to higher education brings benefits for our culture, and for our civic life, that transcend simple "job training." Benefits of an educated population accrue to our society in important ways, whether or not robots are doing more of our work. I can't find any good in aiming at a less educated population (unless of course you are Sarah Palin, and want a higher percentage of voters to perceive you as a person with profound ideas).

:-)

Posted by: Patrick_M | March 7, 2011 4:35 PM | Report abuse

Everybody should become an artist (visual, plastic, musical, theatrical, literary, camera-based). Then we should pay artists.

Posted by: JJenkins2 | March 7, 2011 4:42 PM | Report abuse

patrick:

Well ok, but I think it's gonna be tough to convince any grad program to accept Bill Gates or Steve Jobs since neither got their 4 year degree.

On a slightly more serious note, I would rather hear about business from Sam Zell, Richard LeFrak, Warren Buffet, Pete Peterson, etc than your basic college professor. At what university do they have a lecture series like that?

Posted by: johnmarshall5446 | March 7, 2011 6:16 PM | Report abuse

The solution is games.

As of right now, very many people derive a lot of pleasure and self-esteem from being good gamers. That is, it is not just that the games are entertaining, but that people are proud of being good at them. A good game is not just entertaining, but it works very hard to provide the player with a sense of accomplishment for meeting the challenges.

If we enter a world where people no longer can get a sense of accomplishment from work, then games seem like an extremely logical place to go.

Posted by: usergoogol | March 7, 2011 6:17 PM | Report abuse

"On a slightly more serious note, I would rather hear about business from Sam Zell, Richard LeFrak, Warren Buffet, Pete Peterson, etc than your basic college professor. At what university do they have a lecture series like that?"

Actually, I'd wager that a person pursuing a business degree in a university setting is FAR more likely to have the opportunity to attend a lecture by any of those individuals, not to mention study and discuss their careers in depth, than is the case for the typical high school graduate.

And if you aspire to become a Chief Operating Officer in a large organization, you'll be a more impressive candidate if you have completed your MBA than if you boast instead that you saw an interview on TV with Warren Buffett, Richard LeFrak, et al, (as enlightening as those gentlemen's talents and experiences may be).

And (again) my whole point is that an important part of the value of an education is that it broadens a person's understanding BEYOND the focus of one's major field of career interests, and (in a good college, anyway) sharpens one's ability to think critically, test and formulate arguments, and express oneself verbally and in writing. In a democracy, it is obviously worthwhile to have a population that can think in a straight line, and in which persons can converse and debate their ideas in a rational and precise manner.

That is a value has more to do with "who we are" (as individuals and as a nation) than it matters to "what we do," as Vikingdude put it.

Anyway, I'll bow out here, rather than risk ending up stuck in a circular discussion. I've enjoyed the exchange, once again.

Posted by: Patrick_M | March 7, 2011 7:48 PM | Report abuse

Patrick:

Of course if your goal is corporate, then you must have an MBA. I wasn't seriously counseling anyone who is looking for a corporate job NOT to get one.

Ironically, if you goal is a broader education, you will get more of that outside the MBA field. Far more of the great names in American business, the owners rather than the officers, don't have an MBA than do.

We'll do it again.

Posted by: johnmarshall5446 | March 7, 2011 10:16 PM | Report abuse

Post a Comment

We encourage users to analyze, comment on and even challenge washingtonpost.com's articles, blogs, reviews and multimedia features.

User reviews and comments that include profanity or personal attacks or other inappropriate comments or material will be removed from the site. Additionally, entries that are unsigned or contain "signatures" by someone other than the actual author will be removed. Finally, we will take steps to block users who violate any of our posting standards, terms of use or privacy policies or any other policies governing this site. Please review the full rules governing commentaries and discussions.




characters remaining

 
 
RSS Feed
Subscribe to The Post

© 2011 The Washington Post Company