Are PSU employees government employees

Why hasn't the number of government employees dropped significantly after the introduction of computers and the Internet?

There are two separate effects caused by making paperwork easier to edit. You have found that processing the previously required documents takes less work. The other effect is that it's easier to add more paperwork. If they add enough additional paperwork requests, it offsets the reduced overhead of processing the old requests.

Another problem is that an improved paperwork creation ability works for both parties. It is easier for the criminal to create forged papers. So the government needs more paperwork to verify that the paperwork is valid.

Before computers, you would have to save all paper as paper. Huge, huge filing cabinets. Computers can save you a lot more paperwork. Scan it in and a hard drive can hold records from a filing cabinet. With eFile, you may not even have to scan the documents.

TL; DR : There is more paperwork now than there was before computers.

Even services like the police could be reduced in number as you can now monitor an entire city from a single office instead of relying on ubiquitous foot patrols.

That is completely backwards. Foot patrols are not about "watching" the city. We haven't needed that since telephones became ubiquitous. Foot patrols are about showing presence. The criminals say, "Oh, I just saw a cop. Maybe this is not the best time to steal this lady's handbag." Or deal with drugs. Or what ever. We still don't have technology to really replace this (although security robots are being worked on).

This is another problem with viewing technology as simplification. A side effect of foot patrols was that people could report crimes directly to foot patrols. But the real purpose was to signal to people that the police were taking care of it. If you completely remove the surveillance function from the police, you must continue to signal the care.

In addition, any response to surveillance requires the police. The foot patrols mean there are officers right there. What do officers do when there are no incoming calls? Hide in a secluded place? Or openly patrol the city on foot?

Most aspects of life that can be automated are only part of the process. Even if you take away all of the part that can be automated, we still have the other parts. And often the other parts are almost as much work as they were before automation.

Take water samples as an example. We can automate the pouring of the water into a test machine. We can automate the printing and distribution of reports. What we cannot automate, however, is for a trustworthy person to drive to the location to be tested, collect the water and send it to the test location. Even if we could automate that, we cannot automate that the automation equipment has not been compromised. Unplug the device and put it in a bucket instead. Then you can produce as much pollution as you want. Automation happily creates tons of counterfeit papers.

To fix this, we will send a person to the place to check that the sensor is in the stream and not in a bucket. This person tests the sensor and resets it. Then take a water sample, label it and send it to the test site. Which, of course, is exactly the job that we wanted to automate away. Worse still, a significant part of that job is travel. And traveling doesn't help much if you skip every other place.

Net effect of the technology:

  • Expensive new equipment.
  • Increased range (more samples taken).
  • Little decrease in the number of people doing the original job as reviewing the remote results is a significant amount of the work.
  • New work is required to keep automation going.

We had a similar problem with gasoline. Gasoline efficiency (measured in gallons per mile) doubled. However, the fuel consumption remained the same. People used the same amount of gasoline but instead increased their commute distance.

A higher efficiency does not necessarily lead to a lower usage. This is only the case if we are satisfied with the same performance.

KRyan

I think the answer might be that output stress earlier. It's implicit throughout, but you don't explicitly point it out until the last word. Not only is there more paperwork "because", there is more paperwork because we are getting more and more wanted to (more thorough review, more details and data available, etc) it's just that we have had limited ability to collect, store and manipulate so much. More efficiency can mean the same number of people doing more instead of doing the same amount with fewer people.

jamesqf

The problem with computers that make the police force more efficient is that a lot more things effectively become illegal. That is, when the handling of serious crime X becomes more efficient, the police not only take the rest of the day off. They now have time to pester you for minor Y and Z violations that they had rarely dealt with before.

person27

@jamesqf Why is that a problem?

jamesqf

@ Anon234_4521: 1) Because taxpayers do not see the benefit of increasing efficiency. 2) Because more people are falling victim to the legal system.

person27

I think, harassment and Victimization are part of an anti-police stigma that the media and the public have recently endorsed. I think police efficiency increases when they can handle more at once, and the only "victims" would be those who commit petty crimes anyway. They have to be enforced to be meaningful.