Skip to main content

The Future of the Professions - Richard Susskind and Daniel Susskind ***

We're used to hearing how technology is going to replace the jobs of those doing mechanistic jobs - but this book takes on the impact that technology will have on the professions. 

I've only given the book three stars as it feels rather too much like a textbook (admittedly a well-written textbook), it's fairly repetitious and there's limited coverage of the science and technology behind the move. However this doesn't detract from the fascinating aspects of the book.

One of these is simply addressing the professions at all. According to the authors there's a fair amount of literature on this - but it's stuff us ordinary mortals are unlikely to have seen. A starting point is deciding just what the professions are. The book primarily focuses on the traditional professions such as medicine, accountancy, the law, journalism and religion - though they admit that the concept, essentially one where it is necessary to have specialist knowledge and there is often regulation and/or certification, is now a lot wider. (In practice, though religion gets passing mentions, it's largely sidelined, which is probably sensible in the context.)

The authors' assertion is that these roles can be subject to a kind of production line breakdown of tasks, some parts of which can easily be accommodated by information technology or less qualified individuals. The argument is that not only will this reduce costs where, for example, companies are reluctant to continue paying through the nose for corporate law (bye bye Suits), it also has the potential to open up these services to a much wider clientele that is presently largely excluded or at least has significantly reduced access.

Of course there are plenty of objections (often from those involved in the professions) which the authors largely succeed in knocking out of the way. For example they point out that this move will probably reduce the earnings of many professionals - but as they observe, these roles are not there for the benefit of the professionals but for their clients. Inevitably there is quite a lot of futurology style guesswork here. The authors point out they will often be wrong in detail - but argue convincingly that the professions are going to go through a major upheaval in the next generation.

It's amusing, given the authors' assertion that 'in the professions, knowledge resides in the heads of professionals, in books...', using this as a mark of how out of step the professions are in the internet age... that I should have been reading this in a book, rather than, say, a blog post or electronic magazine article. However this still remains a title of interest to anyone either involved in a profession (traditional or more modern) or interested in the future of the middle class.


Hardback:  

Kindle 
Review by Brian Clegg

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Beyond Weird - Philip Ball *****

It would be easy to think 'Surely we don't need another book on quantum physics.' There are loads of them. Anyone should be happy with The Quantum Age on applications and the basics, Cracking Quantum Physics for an illustrated introduction or In Search of Schrödinger's Cat for classic history of science coverage. Don't be fooled, though - because in Beyond Weird, Philip Ball has done something rare in my experience until Quantum Sense and Nonsense came along. It makes an attempt not to describe quantum physics, but to explain why it is the way it is.

Historically this has rarely happened. It's true that physicists have come up with various interpretations of quantum physics, but these are designed as technical mechanisms to bridge the gap between theory and the world as we see it, rather than explanations that would make sense to the ordinary reader.

Ball does not ignore the interpretations, though he clearly isn't happy with any of them. He seems to come clo…

Jim Baggott - Four Way Interview

Jim Baggott is a freelance science writer. He trained as a scientist, completing a doctorate in physical chemistry at Oxford in the early 80s, before embarking on post-doctoral research studies at Oxford and at Stanford University in California. He gave up a tenured lectureship at the University of Reading after five years in order to gain experience in the commercial world. He worked for Shell International Petroleum for 11 years before leaving to establish his own business consultancy and training practice. He writes about science, science history and philosophy in what spare time he can find. His books include Atomic: The First War of Physics and the Secret History of the Atom Bomb (2009), Higgs: The Invention and Discovery of the ‘God Particle’ (2012), Mass: The Quest to Understand Matter from Greek Atoms to Quantum Fields (2017), and, most recently, Quantum Space: Loop Quantum Gravity and the Search for the Structure of Space, Time, and the Universe (2018). For more info see: www…

Quantum Space: Jim Baggott *****

There's no doubt that Jim Baggott is one of the best popular science writers currently active. He specialises in taking really difficult topics and giving a more in-depth look at them than most of his peers. The majority of the time he achieves with a fluid writing style that remains easily readable, though inevitably there are some aspects that are difficult for the readers to get their heads around - and this is certainly true of his latest title Quantum Space, which takes on loop quantum gravity.

As Baggott points out, you could easily think that string theory was the only game in town when it comes to the ultimate challenge in physics, finding a way to unify the currently incompatible general theory of relativity and quantum theory. Between them, these two behemoths of twentieth century physics underlie the vast bulk of physics very well - but they simply can't be put together. String theory (and its big brother M-theory, which as Baggott points out, is not actually a the…