New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman took a break from presidential politics Wednesday to fashion one of his fantasies about the brave new economic world.
Friedman once again served as the mouthpiece for one of his favorite corporate pals, Infosys President Ravi Kumar, who gave Friedman his "world is flat" theme.
Infosys, founded in India but now based in covid-19-staggered New York City, is one of those new age consulting companies that help other corporations squeeze out profits more efficiently by ramping up "worker productivity."
Kumar filled Friedman's mind with visions of the post-pandemic world, in which workers will need constant refurbishing of unnamed skills so that they can toil at home carrying out some kind of corporate "modular" projects. The column didn't say what kind of tasks would be done by these happy domestic workers.
Sounded like corporate feudalism. In other words, an expansion of the contract worker model, without corporate benefits. Presumably, government health care would replace private insurance plans.
Friedman quoted Kumar as saying that unidentified technical skills are now more valued than university degrees, and that Infosys and other companies are investing in their own education programs, bypassing colleges.
Sure, Infosys still hires plenty of university-trained engineers, but the company also likes some kind of self-taught savants. All you need is to push a button on the robot assembly line, I suppose. Those rosy scenarios were sweetened by vintage Friedman chestnuts like "adaptive coalitions."
After this endorsement of technical education, Friedman made the contradictory assertion that corporations still will need workers who possess the kind of creative thinking traditionally developed by college liberal arts educations.
Perhaps old-fashioned degrees will have a place after all. Left unsaid was what kind of role public education will play.
Nor did the column say anything about the future of artificial intelligence, one of Infosys' main consulting areas. With robots doing more and more jobs, what will humans do in their cozy home workplaces?
Also missing was any mention of climate change, a curious omission since that's become a major Friedman theme.
Friedman's acclamation of Kumar's corporate utopia left huge gaps. The vision of workers constantly learning new skills to carry out the corporate agenda sounded more oppressive than liberating.