While I was watching a series which is about the Ad people from the Madison Avenue in the 1960’s New York, I was wondering how they did their work. Already in the first episode a typewriter is being revealed to the secretary and introduced and state-of-the-art technology. Of course, back in the day it was, but how did the Internet change the Economy?
One very obvious answer is ‘New Economy’, of course. The New Economy is based on the new technologies and therefore without new technologies no New Economy. Online transactions, semi-conductor productions and overseas’ call centers can only work because of the technological developments. But what do we look at if we try to trace the change in the ‘Old Economy’ with the uprising of new technologies? Let us – for the arguments sake – say that you are a lawyer or a professor.
Nowadays, the lawyers secretary can communicate with all customers via Email. Some things might still be easier to be done on the landline. Documents which have to be signed can be send by email or fax, important calls can be redirected to the lawyer’s cell phone. A lot more work can be accomplished because it is accomplished faster. Printing the same document takes seconds while using the typewriter it had to be re-typed completely. Just think about the research. Trying to find court’s decisions and maybe certain laws of other countries for comparative perspectives. Things which would have taken quiet some time a lot of digging in the libraries before it could be revealed. During our time, it is a couple of search strings entered into one of the major search engines and in the end you are going to have the desired piece of paper as digital version, ready to be re-printed, saved on you computer.
The professor (even living outside the ‘economy’) has the same advantages when it comes to research. When it comes to handling students, the new technologies also make it easier. Emails send to all of them, answering emails within seconds without the need for a phone call – or if documents are needed to understand – a meeting. Most professors I know only have 1-2 hours of visiting hours per week. The rest is already done by email. Of course, at that point we have to be fair and have to mention that in the old economy there were people who did a lot of that ‘legwork’ for you. Research assistants and secretary staff should be mentioned.
However, given the same manpower, the same tasks can be accomplished much faster. At some point, I guess it would be interesting to figure out how much (in numbers) the efficiency of those jobs increased with the usage of new technologies. Another point that would be interesting is, whether the quality improved or not – or even the opposite – with the usage of new technologies to deal with these matters. Maybe the case is that because everything can be done and answered in split seconds, there is not enough time to really think through the answer before sending an email while the typing of a mail took so much time that mistakes could been revealed easier? Maybe because we are expected to accomplish things faster, we accomplish them not with the quality it could have had. The output in numbers will definitely be higher but I doubt that also the quality has been increased in the same way.
Some thoughts from the Past…