Friday, October 21, 2011

...someone in China or India can do your work more cheaply than you can.

I'm currently reading A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the World (Daniel Pink, 2005), and it's both nice and fucking-annoying at the same time. Pink (imagine having that as your surname) is basically saying that the world is a-changing, that previously looked-down-on 'right-brain' skills (such as creativity, looking-at-the-big-picture, empathy) are going to be more valuable than the traditionally admired 'left-brain' skills (such as logic and sequential thinking). To survive in this scary, topsy-turvy world where design, for example, is a better career option than engineering, law or medicine, we need to apply both sides of our brain- basically, a 'whole' new mind. While I love the title (and the cover, it's neon!), I'm not sure about the book itself.

First of all, my version has a ton of typos and grammatical errors, which I just don't understand. I mean, how could the editors/ proof readers/ whoever let this happen? This is a minor concern, though, and the main reason for my annoyance is quite different.

Pink (I just love using his surname) says -and I guess I agree- that the main reasons for the fall of the left-brainers are Abundance, Asia and Automation. Abundance, because there's so much wealth and so many products that the only things which differentiate one offering from the other is design or marketing or story-telling, and not the function of the product itself. Asia and Automation because, well, now either machines or low-paid workers in India can do the technical boring bits for much less money. So, the only way to survive in such an economy is to adapt and offer services which can't be done by the machines or the low-paid Indian workers.

I started getting annoyed pretty early on, because I kept feeling that Dan was saying (though not stating) that Asian workers were not capable of doing such creative work, that America, UK and Canada were somehow more evolved countries which had already made the shift from the Information Age to the "Conceptual Age". Somewhat irrational, I know, but I just hate the American arrogance or whatever which makes it seem that now the menial and routine work can be outsourced, and whole-brained people must "rise" in the first world for it to maintain its supremacy. This theme recurs throughout the book (I've read till page 183 of 247) and makes me gnaw my teeth every time. I mean, first you promote globalization, because you want a wider market for your products, and then, when globalization also means that you have to compete in the global market for work, then it's a bad thing?

But Pink doesn't really say that. What he's saying is that "we" need to deal with it, and adapt ourselves. Yes, I know, I'm not making much sense, even to myself, and I also know that this book was written in 2005 by an American for Americans and I've already said that I know I'm being irrational. But I really, really hate how Pink goes on and on about Asians (especially Indians) now doing the routine left-brain work. I feel like he's constantly deriding their right-brain capabilities by assuming that Americans are in competition with Asians only for left-brain jobs. This, when everyday I come across so many examples of amazing design work done by Indians, when I hear that the science stream topper from my brother's school is studying design at NID. This is my issue with the book: I think that the whole world is waking up to the power of right-brain thinking, and not just the western, "advanced" world.

By some weird quirk of fate (ha) I came across this article the same day I was feeling all pissed about the book, and the author made me feel better about Americans in general. The author says:
When you say of the Indians, “evidently, the quality is good enough,” I can tell you that yes, it is, and often it is better. There is a lot of design talent beyond our borders — educated, clear thinking, visionary, with great enthusiasm and a tremendous work ethic. To us insular Americans, this may be shockingGet unshocked, and get ready to play. It’s a good thing. 
and this is the attitude I was looking for, not the let's-develop-new-skills-that-the-Indians-don't-have-so-we-can-maintain-our-domination. Argh, I feel as if I'm being excessively critical again, but I can't help it. And I have to say that in spite of all this, I do think that the book is pretty good, it does talk a lot of sense, and it offers some much-needed advice. I may not love it, but I do like it.

On an aside, Before and After Magazine's "design talks" are pretty interesting. They have some nice free stuff to download/ watch too.
Also, came across this neat illustration when image-searching for the book cover:
The artist's "visual notes" for the book.


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