View From Here: Bandits, Dangers and Opportunities
The marauding packs of corporate bandits are at it again, robbing the common citizenry, causing pain and death with utter abandon and no remorse. First they came for the homes, using mortgages as gambling chips, extracting bonuses and fees for every toss of the dice and with the homeowner left to account for the value after the game is done.
And here they are at it again, these economic parasites, now guised as a “health insurance industry”, have placed themselves between the citizenry and basic health care like common toll road warlords commanding “pay us or die.” A single-payer plan, such as those typical in the rest of the industrial world, would be like the sheriff coming to town and the townsfolk paying him, or her, for protection.
From the chemical industry’s insistence there are acceptable limits and no ill effects, the pharmaceutical industry that produces illness sustainers that must be purchased for a lifetime, because cures are business killers, but that’s not how capitalism rolls. They saw what the Salk vaccine did to the iron lung industry, and they are not going to make that mistake again. The only thing that can stop them is a massive campaign that takes the battle for “single payer” to the streets in a roar of public defiance. And don’t let them tell you that “It’s a done deal” – “Too big to fight against” – “Too powerful.” That’s the Bloomberg Bamboozle and we can’t let it work again.
There is a new reality taking hold of the world and it is both grim news and opens a world of possibilities for the young people of Bedford-Stuyvesant. An argument can be made that we are living in the beginning waves of the Future Shock world that Alvin Toffler warned about in his 1970 book of the same name and if that is so, then all of the change in the last few decades has finally caught up with us and the unemployment rate will not be improved by the once-useful measures of the past. The grim news for our children is that the jobs they are being trained for are dying and the education they’re receiving to enable them to survive and prosper in the economic environment of the future, is not up to the national, much less international, standards that are being set and exceeded around the world.
The resurgence in jobs will not be coming from big growth in middle-sized or large companies, but rather big growth from individual income-producing activities, businesses of 1-10 people. Here is where the world of possibilities lies, as a part of these many micro-businesses powering the economic resurgence by the power and redundancy of a parallel-processing system, as opposed to “Too big to fail” industries and institutions whose time is inevitably coming to a close.
In the online book, Unbounding the Future: the Nanotechnology Revolution, The Foresight Institute, a think tank and public interest organization focused on transformative future technologies, says “The trend for advanced technologies seems to be leading away from centralization. Will nanotechnology counter or accelerate this trend? By reducing the cost of equipment, by reducing the need for large numbers of people to work on one product, and bringing greater ability to produce the customized goods that people want, nanotechnology will probably continue the twentieth century trend toward decentralization. The results, though, will be disruptive to existing businesses.
There’s been a respite from future shock in the last three decades; people have had a chance to catch their breath. When nanotechnology arrives, will future shock arrive with it?”
Well, ladies and gentlemen, welcome to that world. Companies simply do not need the people they have let go. Software is now performing many of those jobs and the workforce has to remake itself and be able to re-imagine what it wants to be and this is just the beginning.
According to Foresight, this is what our children will need: “These human skills that people carry with them will continue to be valued; managing complexity, providing creativity, customizing things for other people, helping people deal with problems, providing old services in new contexts, teaching, entertaining and making decisions. A reasonable guess would be that many of the service and information industries of the twentieth century will continue to evolve and exist in a world with nanotechnology. What is harder to imagine would be what new industries will come into being once we have new capabilities and lower costs.” And harder still to imagine that the Department of Education is preparing our children to thrive in that world, however it may look, and for that, we really have no clue. As Foresight says, “Today, it’s as hard to predict what new industries will be invented as it would have been for the creators of the ENIAC computer to have predicted cheap, handheld game computers for children.”
Lights on the horizon are the young people we’ve seen operating Web-based businesses, and the small shops springing up around the area that are pretty well-described by Foresight as examples of what is to be expected. “We’ve also seen the resurgence of small, but highly diverse stores: gourmet food shops, specialty ethnic shops, tea and coffee purveyors, organic and health food stores, bakeries, yogurt shops, gourmet ice cream stores, convenience stores offering twenty-four-hour access, shops selling packaged food plus snacks. These stores epitomize something fundamental: At some point, what we want is not a standard good at an ever-cheaper price, but special things customized to meet our own individual tastes or needs.”
Whether these are the best of times or the worst of times is yet to be determined, but one thing we know for sure, they will be the times we make them.