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 
Using these links earns us commission at no cost to you
Review by Brian Clegg

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

A (Very) Short History of Life on Earth - Henry Gee *****

In writing this book, Henry Gee had a lot to live up to. His earlier title  The Accidental Species was a superbly readable and fascinating description of the evolutionary process leading to Homo sapiens . It seemed hard to beat - but he has succeeded with what is inevitably going to be described as a tour-de-force. As is promised on the cover, we are taken through nearly 4.6 billion years of life on Earth (actually rather more, as I'll cover below). It's a mark of Gee's skill that what could have ended up feeling like an interminable list of different organisms comes across instead as something of a pager turner. This is helped by the structuring - within those promised twelve chapters everything is divided up into handy bite-sized chunks. And although there certainly are very many species mentioned as we pass through the years, rather than feeling overwhelming, Gee's friendly prose and careful timing made the approach come across as natural and organic.  There was a w

Michael D. Gordin - Four Way Interview

Michael D. Gordin is a historian of modern science and a professor at Princeton University, with particular interests in the physical sciences and in science in Russia and the Soviet Union. He is the author of six books, ranging from the periodic table to early nuclear weapons to the history of scientific languages. His most recent book is On the Fringe: Where Science Meets Pseudoscience (Oxford University Press). Why history of science? The history of science grabbed me long before I knew that there were actual historians of science out there. I entered college committed to becoming a physicist, drawn in by the deep intellectual puzzles of entropy, quantum theory, and relativity. When I started taking courses, I came to understand that what really interested me about those puzzles were not so much their solutions — still replete with paradoxes — but rather the rich debates and even the dead-ends that scientists had taken to trying to resolve them. At first, I thought this fell under

Regeneration - Paul Hawken **

This is a really big book. I don't mean big in the sense of important, but physically enormous for what it is - it's roughly the size of a children's annual, though a lot thicker. Interestingly, the format appears to be a Paul Hawken speciality - he did it with his previous title, Drawdown ,  though that was far less glossy. Paul Hawken's aim is to put forward a solution to climate change driven from humans rather than from the science. The tag line on the back of the book reads 'The climate crisis is not at science problem. It is a human problem.' And that itself is a problem. It's not that climate change isn't a human problem, but rather that it's both a human problem and a science problem - requiring human and science-based solutions. But the approach taken in this book is anything but scientific. It's a bit like saying the Covid-19 pandemic is a human problem, not a science problem. The pandemic is indeed a human problem, but if we'd tr