What has been called “The best job market in half a century” is reason enough to revisit this piece from three years ago.
Is technology a net creator or destroyer of jobs? The question is as old as the Industrial Revolution, when workers in mills found themselves put out of work by large industrial looms. In France, they threw their shoes (sabots) into the weaving machines to destroy them – the origin of the term “sabotage”. The protests didn’t stop the machines, however, and the workers had to find something else to do in an ever-changing economy where machines did more and more work.
Today, the pace of technological change is faster than ever, with new gadgets coming into our lives constantly. Automation is also transforming our lives, with new robots and artificial intelligence replacing workers constantly. Are today’s productivity gains tomorrow’s unemployment? Increasingly those who study technology in our lives and the popular media are coming to the conclusion that yes, workers are net losers in the race against tech. And this is not a partisan issue.
A new approach to economics is essential to understand and master the changing nature of the world. Humans have mastered or at least learned to predict and cope with natural issues. Food is plentiful, even with a high global population. People are moving to cities everywhere, meaning that daily life is defined by interactions with people more than with the natural world.
People’s Economics is about mastering that world.
Our life, and the lives of everyone around the planet, are defined more and more by technology. Will this enrich our lives or enslave us? Will it make people happy or redundant? The answers to these questions are the difference between a future dystopia and a time of great abundance. It is essential for the implementation of Industry 4.0 as well.
A world which depends on technology is a world which depends on skills. The word technology literally means “the study of skill,” and the acquisition of new skills defines a developing economy. There can be little doubt that the skills and ability to implement new products, processes, or systems is what will continue to define a technology driven world.
This is a matter of people, not money. It is at the core of what People’s Economics, the process of increasing the value of the greatest resource of any nation on earth – the drive, skills, and connections of its people. It is the second of the Five Points which define People’s Economics.
ITT Technical Institute was hardly a fly-by-night operation. After 50 years in business as a for-profit technical school it was forced to close down after losing its accreditation and, shortly afterwards, eligibility for federal student loans. It’s merely the latest blow to the for-profit education market after the closing of Corinthian Colleges in 2015 and the dramatic paring back of the previously aggressive University of Phoenix.
Is there a future in for-profit education? Does the free market work, or should education be entirely run by and for the public?
In Junior High I had a class on typing. We meandered to a windowless room full of the clickety-crunch churn of IBM Selectric typewriters, set out in rows on tables. Each had the solid ca-CHUNK keys that let you know that you hit one, even when you became proficient and fast on the things.
It seems like it was the era of the dinosaurs describing it to kids today. They’ve never even seen such a device.
But as antique as it seems, the training was important. I was ready to pick up a computer keyboard and move ahead when they became standard. Like the use of cc: to mean “carbon copy” on an email, the old system trained me well for what was to come next. Old ways often form a bedrock for learning in a world that is redefining itself all the time.
Here is a short list of items I think that we should continue to teach in schools, antique as they may seem. Many simply became lost in the desire to goose standardized test scores, which is pathetic. These are not only still relevant, they may become moreso in surprising ways in the years ahead. And that may point to new ways to teach them, too.
What is money? Your answer may depend a lot on how much of it you have. Ultimately, the main purpose of money is convenience. A system of barter works pretty well when two people have things each other need – someone with chickens meets up with someone else who recently slaughtered their pig and both have bacon and eggs. But if you can also exchange those eggs for money you can save it up to buy something different or bigger.
As we’ve concluded before, Adam Smith was right – money is a matter of belief. Whether it’s gold, Euros, or Canadian Tire Money it’s worth whatever you believe it is worth. Our own US Dollar is backed by the “Full faith and credit of the US Government”, which is scary if you think about it.
But money is more than convenience and faith – it’s what it takes to make things happen. And that’s worth thinking about some more.