Sunday, January 12, 2014

Not Well or Wisely

WSJ tech columnist Farhad Manjoo predicts that jobs will be transformed into games where winning "players" are promoted or at least get to keep their jobs.
"Gamification"...refers to transferring the features that motivate players in videogames—achievement levels, say, or a constantly running score—into nongame settings. Gamification systems are possible because much of what we do in the workplace is conducted through software that can track our productivity, constantly measure our value and apply incentives that prod us to do better.
Games have long been a metaphor for work, or even life, but Mr. Manjoo seems to believe that the term will soon be applied literally. However, it strikes this observer that adoption will proceed at about the same pace as artificial intelligence and robotification, that is, more slowly than enthusiasts think.

There's no question that hardware speeds and data storage have improved at exponential rates. The limitation is in the software. Traditional management tasks of defining and measuring job success and then constructing incentives to reward positive behaviors are hard enough. Designing a game that incorporates those elements and is fun to boot will probably work in simpler jobs that don't change much, but will be very difficult in complex jobs such as teaching, law, medicine, and computer programming, all of whose rote tasks have already been made easier by technology.

Gamification may be inevitable, but I have my doubts whether it will be done well or wisely.

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