The Correct Word is Desource, Not Outsource.

Deven Desai

Deven Desai is an associate professor of law and ethics at the Scheller College of Business, Georgia Institute of Technology. He was also the first, and to date, only Academic Research Counsel at Google, Inc., and a Visiting Fellow at Princeton University’s Center for Information Technology Policy. He is a graduate of U.C. Berkeley and the Yale Law School. Professor Desai’s scholarship examines how business interests, new technology, and economic theories shape privacy and intellectual property law and where those arguments explain productivity or where they fail to capture society’s interest in the free flow of information and development. His work has appeared in leading law reviews and journals including the Georgetown Law Journal, Minnesota Law Review, Notre Dame Law Review, Wisconsin Law Review, and U.C. Davis Law Review.

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6 Responses

  1. A.J. Sutter says:

    “Self-driving cars and autonomous stocking clerks are the logical steps after ATMs and self-serve kiosks at movie theaters and grocery stores.” — By what “logic”? And why should that sort of “logic” be the criterion for policy?

    “I suppose at some point companies will have to realize that they need masses who can buy stuff. Yet I think some studies indicate that serving the upper end of the economy works better than serving the masses. ” — Works better at what? This post doesn’t consider such a question. In the view expressed here, “the masses” seem to have a purely instrumental function of consuming stuff that keeps the economy rolling. The post doesn’t reflect at all on the importance of work to most people — not only for their material needs, but for their human ones as well, including as a source of meaning in their lives. What are people to do if they can’t have work? And what is it that assures anyone writing or reading this blog that he or she won’t be swept into “the masses” at any moment?

    One possibility you don’t consider is that the problem is, simply put, capitalism. These developments need not be “inevitable,” nor, as you seem to suggest in your final sentence, do they necessarily represent the way the world works, if capitalism is put into question — because in that case, the reduction of costs and the increase of “returns” need not be as prioritized as they are now. I’m not saying that any alternative to capitalism, e.g. a productivist doctrine such as communism, is sufficient. Rather, my point is that we need to break out of capitalist thinking in order to consider more humane alternatives.

    “Humans are friction points.” What a vision. A profound one, in fact: like the rest of this post, it reflects both a profound lack of empathy and a profound failure of imagination.

  2. Deven says:

    No one said that was the criterion for policy. I am making observations about how people think about this issue. I am not saying they are correct or the way things ought to be. I call out where things may head and call out desourcing to highlight the problem it poses. My empathy is clear. It is for those who may be cut out of a future where they may matter and have lives they like.


  3. says:

    Deven, if you substitute “computers” for “steam engines”, your post will turn into a classic mournful outcry that navel-gazing humanities-trained Luddites were putting out back in 19th century. None of this is new. Since then, we’ve learned not to take this talk too seriously We DO want to increase productivity by using machines. This DOES lead to fundamental gains in social wealth. Regimes other than capitalism HAVE been tried and failed miserably everywhere. Optimism, brother! You haven’t listed anything new. None of this is a disaster.

  4. Deven Desai says:

    Yet again, I am not saying turn back the clock. But productivity does not equal jobs. Social wealth increase does not mean spread broadly. Whether something other than capitalism can or will work is a good question. So far the other options seem to gave failed. Then again, pure capitalism is a mythology. My point is this is not, repeat not, steam. I might be wrong (and I’d be happy to find that things turned out better than it seems). But just as we have seen many folks claim ah this not new or this model works, we have also seen that sometimes models are broken or “flawed” as someone once said. Now I think it my job to put more into what I mean by different. And believe me I am a fan of technology and the way it can improve things. But pure faith does not happen to be my mode.

    If you have specifics as to where the supposed new work will be, please list. I think that the labor numbers are more about less hands, possible union power (now gone), and so whether the service industry will also go away for more automation is a question. And should we (or could we) take advantage for higher productivity to let folks be with family, engage in civics, etc.? That would be great. Hmm blog post may not a good place to get into all that.

    Anyway to be clear I am not saying “preserve the jobs, ditch the machines.” I am saying things will shift and so I’d like to think about what that looks like.

  5. Eric Hodgdon says:

    Post-Capitalism is now. Capitalism ( as practiced in the USA ) has failed by not providing for all the required equal access to opportunity for each generation.

    If a family is poor, the parents are said to be at responsible. Why do we then condemn the children? This is along the lines of “corruption of blood” in the Constitution, because it condemns the children for the father’s mistakes.

    Where is the level playing field I’ve heard so often as to sicken me? Nowhere! because we’re not playing a game! Real life demands demand the purpose of government be held – to protect its citizens from harm. Today’s people didn’t choose this form of government which protects the predators inherent in the economic anarchy of capitalism.

    No one truly desires a handout, and an acceptable standard of living is never defined, so, as we have been born into this system, which has no free space were one can make a living on their own, as money and taxes are always required to buy and feed respectively the means to exist within this arbitrary system imposed on all of us.

    Capitalism has failed as the usurpation of lawful government has succeeded.

  6. Brett Bellmore says:

    This is not steam. Steam replaced draft animals, primarily, not humans. There’s no reason automation has to stop short of systems which can entirely replace humans, from digging up the ore to delivering the product to your front door. A lights out factory over an automated mine, loading self-driving delivery trucks.

    There’s a line creeping rightward across the bell curve, and everyone to the left of that line is essentially unemployable except as charity. It’s not stopping, we’re not getting smarter, eventually it’s going to reach that right tail of the curve, and everyone will be unemployable.

    It’s not the failure of capitalism, in the sense of a system which can’t go on. It CAN go on. It’s only a failure in the sense that we’re not presently organized to cope well with it.

    Everyone needs to become a capitalist, in a world where all the production is due to capital, not labor. That’s all.