Arnold Kling: “The paradox is this. A job seeker is looking for something for a well-defined job. But the trend seems to be that if a job can be defined, it can be automated or outsourced.”

September 13th, 2011

This seems right.

The paradox is this. A job seeker is looking for something for a well-defined job. But the trend seems to be that if a job can be defined, it can be automated or outsourced.

The marginal product of people who need well-defined jobs is declining. The marginal product of people who can thrive in less structured environments is increasing. That was what I was trying to say in my jobs speech.

Megan McArdle agrees.

The jobs that are being automated are the stable, well-paying jobs where you could settle in and know exactly what you’d be doing for years. ¬†As Arnold says, if you can define it, you can probably outline it specifically enough to outsource, either to a lower-wage worker somewhere else, or to a computer.

To the extent that legal jobs can be well-defined, they can be automated. Creativity, and thinking of new ways to create information, are the keys to maintaining the relevance and vitality of the legal profession.