Productivity Paradox circa 1992

Robot and AI fans know a problem that economists have been raising for a
bit (an MIT crew in particular, which noted this problem has persisted
since the early 1990s in economic data).
The problem is: we are using more tech but productivity per worker doesn’t
seem to be rising measurably.
Why not?
Well, here is a rumination on the matter from Geoffrey Moore’s classic
Crossing The Chasm.

Productivity paradox in the classic Crossing the Chasm.

One of the favorite arguments of skeptics is that the billions of dollars
invested in office automation have not improved the productivity of the
office place one iota. Actually, some fairly good data exist to support
this notion. Nonetheless, as you might expect, this argument outrages
high-tech support- ers, who can point to any number of obvious ways in
which the industry elim- inates or facilitates routine—or even
nonroutine—office chores. But what if,



instead of rushing to rebuttal, marketing were to explore the merits of the
skeptic’s argument?

What we might find, for example, is that while high-tech products do give
time back to the individual, the individual does not necessarily give that
time back to the corporation. Or we might find that the capabilities
designed and manufactured into the system at great expense remain buried in
the system because the user never learns about them. Or we might find that
for every individual who can transform the hours invested in training into
competence in a high-tech product, there might be another who cannot. The
loss associ- ated with these people is high, considering not just their
time spent in train- ing, along with any trainer time, but also the cost of
the system bought to sup- port them, the system they cannot effectively