Wednesday, February 19, 2014

A Quiet and Invisible Revolution

Under the "Perspective" section, The Freeman claims that  there is an ongoing revolution that is quiet and invisible to many (January/February 2014). This revolution is happening in the midst of "The Great Stagnation" as described by intellectuals and economists. 

This revolution has something to do with "automation of everything" and "nanomanufacturing." Examples of this are a robot cutting your hair and printing a pencil. The proper response to this revolution should be one of creative adaptability, a quality most important for entrepreneurs. Those who possess such quality can make use of the opportunities offered by such changes for their own advantage. FEE cites John Chisholm confirming this insight: 

"'Choose any product or service in an area you are passionate and knowledgeable about. The area may be aerospace, boats, cars, cooking, education, electronics, fashion, fiction, films, fitness, gadgets, gardening, health, history, math, merchandising, music, politics, scuba, space, sports, statistics, travel, woodworking, you name it. Now think of limitations of the product or service you selected.'"

FEE explains the importance of such insight: 

"If you find those limitations, then you can exploit them by finding ways to make life better for people by bridging the gaps or solving the problems those limitations present." 

After reading the above two quotations, my mind directed me to think about my chosen academic field, theological education. One of its limitations is the scarcity of literature related to economics. Bridging the gap from theology to economics makes a theological educator marketable. 

This insight is also helpful for those who see automation and nanomanufacturing as economic threats. FEE argues that instead of seeing them as "job killers," they should be seen as "productivity enhancers." 

And then FEE enumerates three trends that will characterize the next twenty years: 

  •  "Automation is going to displace a lot of skilled and unskilled labor—particularly as minimum wages and other bad laws raise labor costs that make automation more attractive."
  •  "Nanotechnology is going to mean that the production processes we’re used to are going to change. Entire sections of a manufacturing ecosystem (logistics, warehousing, assembly) may disappear thanks to new nanoscale manufacturing techniques that obviate the need for many discrete-but-interconnected parts created in different places."
  •  "Connectivity is going to mean that some things can be manufactured—right there—in your home or place of business. Or that new assembly and logistics systems will emerge over the old ones."

FEE describes these trends as "creative destruction" that will result to "radical abundance," which means that "Better, faster, and cheaper is going to be the new normal."

However, "the political class" is the primary obstacle for the realization of this vision particularly in sectors of economy such as "healthcare, education, and energy." This class does it through economic regulations. Moreover, it is part of its nature to feed on the productive sector of the economy. No wonder, products and services in in these three sectors of economy "are getting worse, slower, and more expensive." The only hope is that "sharp, savvy entrepreneurs will find cracks and fissures in these State-heavy sectors and restore the benefits of creative destruction."

Guide Questions:

1. What does the writer mean by The Great Stagnation?

2. What is this quiet and invisible revolution all about? 

3. Can you give examples of such quiet and invisible revolution? 

4. What is Ricardo's law? 

5. What limitation can you find from your favorite product or service? 

6. What should be our attitude towards automation and nanotechonology? What should be our proper response to this revolution? 

8. What is the primary  obstacle for the realization or delay of this vision? Why?

9. In which sector of the economy this vision will be more difficult to realize? Why products and services in these sectors so expensive? 

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