Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Skills are Merely Subsets of Aggregate Time Value

Why should it matter? When we focus solely on specific skills, we miss the potential of aggregate time value as an adaptive response to the shifting economic circumstance of the present. And while specific skills tend to reflect specialization as well, non specific skill sets are more applicable to generalization, yet both can "exist on the same continuum". Indeed, the "generalized specialist" may be one practical approach.

Aggregate (or complete) time value - given the diverse options it suggests - contains the potential of adaptive responses for individuals and groups alike. The more flexibility we allow ourselves for personal time management, the less economic risk we ultimately face. Nevertheless, it's one thing to take on diverse monetary investments to reduce risk, and another to make diverse commitments for our time priorities. For more than a century, the majority of us have learned to dismiss skills and time use diversity as a reasonable option. But is it still rational to do so?

When we accept compensation for specific skills sets over a long duration, other valuable parts of our lives can slip away from us. Employment on these terms has never been as flexible - for instance - as the schedules of the farmer, the small business owner or CEO of a corporation, or even the varied routines of those who work from home. And when highly valued skills take precedence over a wide range of practical skills, the result is societal imbalance, between our most useful versus our most highly valued functions. As individuals and groups lose the ability to coordinate time based priorities, they eventually lose the ability to adapt and thrive, as well.

In the twentieth century, the opportunity costs were often minimal, when we gave up our personal time preferences for the skills priorities sought by our institutions. Nevertheless, this scenario is already changing, as automation and technology begin to substitute for what have often been extensive skill commitments on our part. Fortunately, defining the value of our time preferences in economic terms, is a good way to frame our personal priorities in a context not unlike employer priorities, as firms continue to replace labour with automation and technology.

Personally defined time value could also serve as a valuable economic unit. After all, it is much easier to quantify what we want to provide for others, and what we seek in terms of time commitments from others, than it is to quantify the actual interchange of skill capacity in a wide range of current service contexts. Even though it's difficult to define the level or value of skill we need from others in specific instances, we can readily quantify the time we exchange with others. Given the fact today's services have become so difficult to quantify in terms of output, a simple quantification of time commitments would be a considerable step forward. A better understanding of the true potential for services output, is no small matter.

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