Now that our Adventure in Global Outsourcing has had a few years under its belt let’s assess the consequences. First and foremost is the cheapening of American culture both in terms of monetary assets and what was once called Moral Fiber. When a person—any person—can see and appreciate directly the results of their hard work exercised in the deployment of hard earned skills, the satisfaction, sense of well being, and certainty of purpose in their lives is palpable and inescapable. The warm glow that comes from the reciprocal appreciation of others and especially one’s peers is essential to the conviction that we are on the right track individually and collectively. We all love and need praise and recognition to keep us going, to make our lives seem important and necessary, and for most of us, our ability to perform Good Work brings us what we need. It is the rare heir to a family fortune that has found meaning in their lives by sitting on a pile of treasure like Smaug. We need to DO something.
So, what does a nation with a proud and competent work force do with itself once all the work it once did is sent somewhere else in the world? We all know why it is done. We all know because we have been trained since infancy that money makes the world go round alongside the pesky notion that it is really supposed to be love. The steady advance of the Corporation since its Conception to its most recent endowment of legal Personhood has abstracted us even further from what we are as people than we already were, and now all we see everywhere are Icons that represent something else but never the thing itself. A synthetic construction of human association and effort now enjoys the same Constitutional Rights that even most humans will never enjoy nor can afford to enjoy. We The People were never consulted or asked how we might like to have our work and our futures exported to somewhere else—Corporations have made that decision for us. Nothing could be further from a sense of Democracy and our tradition of Unionization than to have a tiny cadre of people hiding behind the color of legal standing making the decisions that affect every one of us from manager to factory worker to consumer.
The prevalent consensus today is that America has become a service economy which seems logical when you have a population whose ability to produce anything of value has been sent somewhere else. What better way to busy ourselves than to create needs to be serviced for a restless, bored, angry, and financially lopsided populace. Oddly, all this service can only be afforded by those who sit on the pile of treasure they have amassed from having our stuff created by literal slave societies around the world while our non-productive slave society at home polishes our cars, paints our toenails, caters our seminars, dry-cleans our suits, nanny-sits our children (because we are too busy giving seminars), and finally shrinks our neuroses to make us feel good about ourselves and what we have done when our grandparents would and do scoff at how we have turned the world they toiled to hand down to us into a hollow shell that we must convince ourselves every day is really filled with something we care about.
We in the Patent Illustration Service business have always been part of the Service Sector, so I suppose I should consider myself lucky. We do not offer a product, although in the old days the case could be made that what was a blank sheet of Bristol Board is now Bristol Board with black ink on it. Now everything is performed on computers, and the decision of whether to output it to PDF or JPG or whatever else is simply a matter of delivery of the Service. But if manufacturing of durable goods (which Patents are meant to protect) can be shipped anywhere it the world, so can Services. But it’s one thing to teach a worker to perform a task regardless of its complexity and have them do it day in and day out, and it’s entirely another to communicate the subtle intricacies of an invention across international borders and expect that communication not to be lost in translation. How many times have you sought help for a sticky computer problem or other technical customer service issue and had your phone call kicked to someone in India or Philippines or Mexico to be fielded by someone with an accent so thick you spend more time mis-communicating than you do solving your problem? I know I have experienced this frustration countless times, and I feel the frustration of the other person who has been put in that position and is expected to be courteous and efficient in dealing with a difficult and angry American who feels his entitlement. How much simpler and efficient to have someone trained in customer service who understands not only the words you use but your intent and might even be able to second guess intent of which you were not aware. That is what constitutes quality customer satisfaction.
And now, at least for some of my clients, the hard lesson has been learned that simply because it’s cheap doesn’t mean it’s a bargain. The same loss in translation takes place in the world of Patent Drawings where your legal nuance is frustrated and more time is spent in international miscommunication than in getting the thing done right by someone who understands you and whom you can understand. There is a new wave arising out of the lessons learned from outsourcing that will bring many manufacturing jobs and innovation back home in the next few decades. Our people are sick and tired of being sick and tired and unable to find work that fits their training and skill set and grants the satisfaction required by all people everywhere. And if it costs more to live in America and work in America, so what? If our jobs return maybe we can afford it.