Am I asking the right questions?
I’m love my country and the people in it. Maybe it’s because I was lucky to meet many amazing people. Not only the people whom I met in person but also the more than 1 million people we reached through Peace City. Imperfection can be a great source of beauty. Therefore I believe that the great majority of people are good people just trying to live their lives. However there are good people with good information and good people with bad information. It’s about how we ask the questions of our time.
Here is an example. The dematerialization of our economy. Between 1945 (Pres. Harry Truman) and 2018 our economy grew to 8 times its size, from $2.3 trillion to $18.5 trillion. And yet the “weight” of our economy didn’t grow much at all. Between the years of 1977 and 2001, the amount of material necessary to produce what Americans need fell from 1.18 trillion lbs to 1.08 trillion lbs, even though the country’s population grew by 55 million people. In other words we make more with less.
At the same time jobs are shifting away from “heavy” sectors (agriculture, manufacturing) to “lighter” sectors like service and information industries (google, amazon, uber, airbnb). The rate of change is also accelerating.
The dematerialization of an economy also results in an acceleration of the speed of change. Think about how long it took to get a letter via pony express from coast to coast: 10 days. Now think about how long it takes to receive an email. As our economy moves from atoms to bytes, the speed of change dramatically accelerates.
This means we have to change our systems faster. AI and robots are getting smart enough to not only do the heavy lifting but also the smart thinking. We are on a trajectory to what I call the Auto-Economy, an economy that is on a path to predominant automation.
In this context we need to ask new questions. If our economy dematerialized at a rate of 8x, where the additional growth comes from a growth of intellectual property and information, should we increase our investment in education to the tune of 8x as well?
Do we need to evolve our macro economic models to put human profit at the epicenter, since profits from automation do not directly benefit broad populations?
Is the “servicification” of our economy and global division of labor just a prelude to what’s to come?
Are jobs in actuality disappearing because of automation?
The greatest danger is to address new challenges with old questions …