Other than George Orwell, I can only think of two men who engagingly wrote about the social impact of superior technology on permanent unemployment: Milton Friedman & Peter Drucker. Dr. Drucker is a far more sophisticaed realist than the arcane specialist like Friedman. Although Friedman had truck loads of common sense, his mastery of arcane aggregates gave him unrivaled authority. I’ve always preferred Dr. Peter Drucker, if only because of his superior historical and philosophical background. For Drucker, (who spent his lifetime reading/studying Toynbee and McLuhan) the American political and social economy is entering a volatile time of ‘structural unemployment’. This is defined as permanent job loss, most often because an intrinsic change in the nature of an indigenous economy. Our rapidly changing, and technologially advanced economy is only fit for those who seek mobility. Hopefully the rest of our political economy will catch up. Who needs a 30 year mortgage when jobs don’t exist? Let’s face it, the nature of the American economy has drastically changed. If we had policies that accommodated this reality it woud not hurt so much, given a weakened currency, high inflation, massive trade deficits coupled to high unemployment makes this recession even more intractable.
So where’s the good news?
Our digital domestic technology gives Americans the ability to create and define new skill sets that traditional schooling could never shape. The career paths that young people have been trained for are narrowing, and they are going to have to launch out in directions they and their families didn’t expect. As Walter Russell Mead said “they were bred and groomed to live as house pets; they are going to have to learn to thrive in the wild.”
The American immediate future is filled with enterprises not yet born, jobs that don’t exist yet, wealth that hasn’t been created, wonderful products and life altering services not yet given form.
Like prehistoric man, digital tribal man is free to create themselves unlike their parents who had to submit to the social authority of centralization. Creating your own career will produce stronger individuals, with stronger identities and greater abilities. The impending sense of satisfaction and fulfillment is worthwhile.
What’s required is self discipine and courage. In a word: Virtue.
Something an institution cannot forge.