For Work / Against Work
Debates on the centrality of work

"Expert Enhancement and Replacement in Computerized Mental Labor"

by Perrolle, Judith A (1991)


What happens to professional and technical work when it is computerized? Exploratory analysis of case studies indicates that when expert systems are used to enhance the work of professionals, some tasks of medium- and low-skilled support personnel are integrated into the work of highly skilled experts. Technical workers are thus at risk of having their jobs automated as part of the computer enhancement of professionals. When computerization replaces expertise, job opportunities for medium-skilled personnel shrink and barriers to upward mobility through on-the-job experience are reduced Entry-level professionals or even technicians with computers can perform tasks formerly done by experienced professionals. But working conditions do not promote the development of expertise and professional judgment among these workers. Thus it appears that routinization, deskilling, and automation are not only the problems of manual laborers in the information age; professional workers are also at risk, in complex ways.

Key Passage

The expert replacement model applies a Taylorist industrial model of mental labor. Knowledge is viewed as a scarce resource to be "extracted" from experts and embodied in computer systems, which can then be operated more profitably. (p.197)


Mental Labor, Automation, Artificial Intelligence, Cognitive Enhancement, Computerisation


AI and Computerisation, Automation

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