Responses To The Revolution We’re Living Through?

I was recently reading Simon Winchester’s book, “The Men Who United the States: America’s Explorers, Inventors, Eccentrics and Mavericks, and the Creation of One Nation, Indivisible” which was published last year.  It’s an interesting exploration of important parts of American history that have gotten lost in the standard renditions or even the standard counter-renditions.

He spends a bit of time on New Harmony, Indiana, Robert Owen’s failed utopian experiment because its establishment enabled the growth of geology and geological exploration in the US, which was an important part of his story.

image

But the description of New Harmony raised a question in my mind.  For those of us who have studied even a basic history of the industrial revolution, we’re aware of various reactions over more than two hundred years. 

Just for a few examples … There were the Luddites who tried to stop it.  There were the utopian communities, like New Harmony, which hoped to offer an alternative to the way industrialization was occurring – sometimes even using industrial tools, but in new forms of society.  Along with that, the Romantic Movement in the arts and the Arts and Crafts movement in the US were a kind of a reaction to industrialization. 

image

The modern corporation was invented in response to the need to somehow manage and then build the industrial revolution’s manufacturing plants.

Marx, of course, developed his critique of capitalism which was the predominant form of economic organization that supported and was supported by the industrial revolution.  Later still, governments started to enact various laws to improve labor conditions, reduce monopolies, and provide for the more even distribution of the wealth created by the industrial revolution.

We’ve learned to understand these reactions, see them in context and know which failed and which succeeded.  That’s easy with the benefit of hindsight.

Although some parts of the world are still in an industrial transition, as I’ve written in various posts, the more economically advanced societies are now going through a transformation as great as the industrial revolution.  We are at the beginning of developing and emerging into a post-industrial society, a knowledge economy, a sharing economy, a digital economy, or something we haven’t coined a name for yet.

So here’s my first question: what responses and reactions to this new economy are we seeing now?

Thinking about the longer term:

  • Which responses will flame out the way New Harmony did? But what residual benefits will such short-lived responses leave for the rest of this century?
  • What new laws do we need and really expect to see?  Or even new forms of governance?
  • What new business arrangements do we really expect to see? Will we need to invent something as new in the same way corporations were invented?

Trying to look out over many decades into the future as this new economy develops, I only have some inklings and guesses – but no answers.  What are your guesses or boldly stated answers?

© 2014 Norman Jacknis

[http://njacknis.tumblr.com/post/99484923968/responses-to-the-revolution-were-living-through]

Getting A Grip On The Future Economy

I’ve been asked by several people for the link to the video of my keynote presentation at the first Intelligent Communities Institute symposium last fall, on “Seizing Our Destiny: Getting A Grip On The Future Economy”.   This was the latest version of the future-oriented strategy to succeed in the world as technology and how people will make a living both change  –  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WlNxLmIQ4O8.

© 2013 Norman Jacknis

[http://njacknis.tumblr.com/post/55085525840/getting-a-grip-on-the-future-economy-ive-been]

Are Jobs Disappearing?

There have been articles and much discussion over the last year or so about how the economic recovery and more generally technological innovation have not generated many jobs.  Indeed it looks like technology is enhancing productivity to the detriment of job creation.

Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee, both of MIT, wrote a somewhat scholarly op-ed article in the NY Times several months ago that noted the traditional increases in jobs and income that have followed productivity increases no longer seem to be happening.  See “Jobs, Productivity and the Great Decoupling”.

WIRED Magazine devoted its December 2012 issue to the impact of robots on jobs and life.  It led with an article by Kevin Kelly entitled: “Better Than Human: Why Robots Will — And Must — Take Our Jobs” and a sub-head “Imagine that 7 out of 10 working Americans got fired tomorrow. What would they all do?"  The magazine even presents a two-by-two matrix about jobs that makes the same point:  many of us won’t have a job for very long.

image

Despite the sensational nature of the issue, there is a lot more to this question than robots and technological advances.  One small provocative aspect has only begun to get attention – maybe the traditional, 9-5 job in an office or factory is just disappearing.

So Douglas Rushkoff on CNN’s website had an article entitled ”Are Jobs Obsolete“ in which he argued that the standard industrial-style job we’ve been used to is an historical anomaly and not likely to last in a post-industrial society.

You can find books with similar themes and some self-help advice on what to do about the trend, such as "Making A Living Without A Job: Winning Ways For Creating Work That You Love” by Barbara Winter.

This line of thought also counters the robots-will-do-all-the-work argument.  As James Lee put it in the March 2012 Futurist, “Jobs are disappearing, but there is still a future for work."  See his article ”Hard At Work In The Jobless Future“.

By the way, this is not an altogether new idea.  In 1994, William Bridges wrote "Job Shift: How To Prosper In A Workplace Without Jobs”.

So part of – certainly not all of – the explanation for the elimination of jobs is their replacement by less structured forms of making a living.  I’ll write more of the story in a future post.

© 2013 Norman Jacknis

[http://njacknis.tumblr.com/post/51647985601/are-jobs-disappearing]