I’m reading a couple of articles by Ryan Norbauer on 43 Folders, a great site for personal organization junkies. (Not that I’m one of those…)
Ryan’s most recent article is about his paperless life, and though I love the concept, I’m a little scared by the recommendation for the $400 scanner.
I also found another article about how Ryan uses outsourcing to enhance his personal and professional life. He uses GetFriday, an online service which supplies him with a personal assistant in India. Ryan outsources lots of menial, time-wasting tasks to his assistant Suresh. the thought is very interesting and very provocative.
The business uses for GetFriday made a lot of sense, but every time he suggests outsourcing personal tasks to Suresh, I shudder:
He does all sorts of one-off research, such as finding contact information on the net, and he even once called around Boston for me to find out which Starbucks was open latest. (I got the results in a meticulously-prepared spreadsheet.)
When I get an iPhone, for example, I imagine that I’ll be calling Suresh less frequently to look up little tidbits of info on the internet for me while I’m out and about. (Right now, it’s actually far less painful to call someone in India and ask them to search the internet than for me than to wrestle with my Treo’s nearly unusable browser.)
At the end of the article, Ryan does address the elephant in the room. It feels unsettling and imperialist for rich Americans to send all their boring, menial work to underpaid assistants in India or China. Ryan’s argument against this is pretty strong. He argues that it’s a situation of comparative advantage: the developing world has a surplus of labor, so there’s nothing unnatural about sending work to them. The alternative is to let them “sit around twittling their thumbs in relative poverty,” which doesn’t help either side. By sending them work — even tasks like “sit on hold with Dell for an hour” — we’re actually doing something about the income inequity, and transferring little bits of our wealth to the developing world. I’m not sure whether I’m convinced, but I encourage you to read the article and check it out yourself.
What do you think — are these indeed reasons to sending more personal tasks to India? Or is Ryan just rationalizing America’s laziness?