Reinterpreting your career based on changing patterns in IT infrastructure

I read this piece in the context of my work in the tech industry but what really fascinates me about it are the implications its arguments could have for industry, and professional life, in general.

Key quote:

Over the course of the 20th century, each industry developed its own vertical stack – research, design, development, production, marketing, sales, service, etc. Although there were essential forms of shared business infrastructure – electrical utilities, transportation systems and telephony services – most industry sectors were much more different than alike. . . . But today, significant chunks of the traditional vertical industry stack are being replaced by an ever more powerful digital fabric of horizontal services – the IT infrastructure equivalents of energy, transportation and telephony.

The four layers of this ‘digital fabric’ are identified by CSC as follows (image below):

  • Compute/store/connect
  • Identify/secure/transact
  • Publish/communicate
  • Sense/analyze/understand


It strikes me that these four stack categories (the four lower categories on the image above) can serve to support career development strategy for those of us who don’t have obviously-identifiable professions and can inform thinking about the (potentially less stable) future for those of us who do have such professions.

We won’t necessarily go to school to become “sense/analyze/understand” experts per se (though, who really knows?) but it does help me to reflect on the fact that that probably represents the part of the stack in which I, personally, operate. I know others who clearly work in the publish/communicate part of this metaphorical stack. We each have job skills that are potentially more easily transferable between different traditional industries than between different parts of the stack.

Again, a useful construct that may provide an inkling of how changing digital infrastructure could change the professional lives of many.

“The Great Decoupling”: National Wealth and Individual Well-being

McKinsey writes about “The Great Decoupling“:

The Quarterly: How would that work? Are you referring to some sort of wage insurance?

Robert Shiller: Insurance is a fundamentally important concept. Whether it’s provided by the private sector or the government, it’s an organized response to uncertainty that affects individuals. Wage insurance is one form that has been experimented with by the US government, in fact, in an effort to deal with the problem that globalization is taking jobs out of the country. But it hasn’t been experimented with very much yet. I think we could have a much more comprehensive system of wage insurance. And we can do it without moral hazard if we manage it right.

I would argue that any sort of large, complex insurance program would be subject to some sort of moral hazard. However, it is also true that a wealthy society with volatile economics should, generally speaking, have different mores about work and livelihood than a poor society or a wealth society with stable economics.

Read more about this image at The Dish.

The Tech Industry in Japan

Here’s an excellent take on how sociological and economic factors have combined to undermine the strength of the Japanese tech industry. If you aren’t specifically interested in that topic, you may still be interested to read about how culture/habit/local business environment have interacted with macroeconomic developments in a globally visible industry, to produce significant change.

I’m sharing a few key excerpts:

" . . . Japanese firms have confronted two critical challenges: the decomposition of production and the services transformation. The decomposition of production refers to the process whereby integral production centered in one country has given way to modular production and global supply chains."

“Japanese firms have confronted two critical challenges: the decomposition of production and the services transformation. The decomposition of production refers to the process whereby integral production centered in one country has given way to modular production and global supply chains. . . .

The decomposition of production has undermined the competitive advantage of Japanese business models that rely on long-term relationships with suppliers, banks, and workers to foster incremental advances in production processes. Japanese manufacturers have maintained a stronger competitive position in products that continue to be characterized by integral production (such as automobiles and digital cameras) than in those that have shifted further to modular production (such as personal computers and cellular telephones). . . .

The services transformation has tested Japanese manufacturers because it relies on capabilities in areas of their weakness – such as services, software, entertainment, and system integration – or on ties with firms that possess those capabilities.”

"Observers have characterized Japan as having a "dual economy", comprised of an internationally competitive sector focused in manufacturing and a domestic protected sector centered in services. And this dual economy has been characterized by a particularly wide gap in productivity between the two sectors. Hence a shift in the locus of growth in the global economy from manufacturing to services and toward greater integration of manufacturing and services implies a shift away from Japan’s comparative advantage."

Conceptualizing privacy

"Journalists, politicians, jurists, and legal academics often describe the
privacy problem created by the collection and use of personal information
through computer databases and the Internet with the metaphor of Big Brother—
the totalitarian government portrayed in George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four.
Professor Solove argues that this is the wrong metaphor. The Big Brother
metaphor as well as much of the law that protects privacy emerges from a
longstanding paradigm for conceptualizing privacy problems. Under this
paradigm, privacy is invaded by uncovering one’s hidden world, by surveillance,
and by the disclosure of concealed information. The harm caused by such
invasions consists of inhibition, self-censorship, embarrassment, and damage to
one’s reputation. Privacy law has developed with this paradigm in mind, and
consequently, it has failed to grapple effectively with the database problem.
Professor Solove argues that the Big Brother metaphor merely reinforces this
paradigm and that the problem is better captured by Franz Kafka’s The Trial.
Understood with the Kafka metaphor, the problem is the powerlessness,
vulnerability, and dehumanization created by the assembly of dossiers of
personal information where individuals lack any meaningful form of
participation in the collection and use of their information. Professor Solove
illustrates that conceptualizing the problem with the Kafka metaphor has
profound implications both for the law of information privacy and for choosing
legal approaches to solve the problem."