We live in a world of change. The examples are numerous: The advent of the printing press; The industrial revolution that began in England and spread around the world; The mechanization of agriculture and the growth of agribusiness; The movement of entire industries overseas (e.g. shoes, textiles, steel); The introduction of television; The introduction of the internet and social media; to name a few. In each instance significant segments of the work force were impacted. Also, until recently these changes occurred over a period of many years. While there was usually painful adjustment for some segments of society or geographic regions, the extended period of time made the adjustment easier. People had time to be retrained for new jobs or to relocate. Society had time to adjust to new means of communication. New industry had time to establish itself and grow.
More recently the change is occurring at a much faster rate. Robots and automation are eliminating jobs. Driverless trucks and cars are at the threshold of reality and threatening jobs. Artificial intelligence systems are threatening professional jobs such as physicians and financial analysts. This is happening over a relatively short period of years as opposed to decades. Creating new jobs and retraining workers for these jobs is a near impossible challenge if we use the usual approaches from the past.
The result of this recent rapid rate of change is societal stress. Stress over job security, financial security, and broad unrest. This stress and unrest brings out tribal instincts and pits disparate interest groups against one another. Each group wants to maintain the security of the way things were. It becomes a competition. Constructive discussion and compromise becomes difficult to near impossible.
Change and the current rate of change is unlikely to change. Hence, the challenge we face is how use that same technology to enable greater agility in adapting to the changes. Education, retraining, and a vibrant economy are the critical enabling areas. These will be subjects of future posts.
Photo by daryl_mitchell