look at some of the current contributing factors:
Low Road Option. Poor people are being channeled into
low-level service jobs or prison rather than college and high-tech
jobs. There is no rational reason for this except for the tradition
of racism and class bias that so infuses the US and most other
“advanced” nations. Our political life is warped
by a “cycle of idiocy”: First, politicians exploit
fear of crime among minorities and the poor to get elected.
Next they put more poor and minorities in jail to “fulfill
their promises to the electorate.” The prison population
grows wildly even as crime goes down, leading to harsher conditions
and fewer educational or training programs in prison. Released
ex-offenders have even less chances at decent employment, and
end up going back to prison. This adds to the fear of minorities
and the poor, making it even easier to get elected by fear tactics,
and so on….
Unemployed High-Tech Workers Are Being Ignored. While
this is certainly happening to many, it is not clear how many
are really being left out compared to the number of positions
available. The other thing to keep in mind is that the high-tech
world is unforgiving. You need to constantly be learning new
skills and re-inventing yourself. If you fall off the train,
it can be very difficult and expensive to get back on. Very
few employers want to train older workers when they hire them.
Bill Gates Model. More and more young people want to
be the next Bill. In many cases they don’t finish college
(just like Bill) or even high school before starting their own
businesses. Business schools are even starting to feel the heat
since they are the traditional stepping-stones to CEO-hood.
Thus being a hard-grinding programmer or high-tech worker has
lost its allure among many young Americans, even though someone
has to come in and fill those empty spots or there will be no
one to make the next Bill’s bills.
Info-Gamblers. Another aspect of the information revolution
is the incredible growth of speculative markets. Anyone can
now become their own broker. Those that do not want to become
Bill, want to make their millions by joining the hot action
on Wall Street and similar institutions world wide. In short,
productive labor is out, gambling is in.
circumstances are not inevitable or inherent to our society.
There are any number of scenarios that could come about to ameliorate
or change them. Whether or not you believe political and business
leaders are smart enough or humane enough to see how to do it,
the solutions are not that complicated.
But I want
to argue a different point. It is certainly good to promote
social policies that give more people productive skills, especially
if they have been locked out of the economy. But I believe the
more successful we are in producing skilled high-tech workers,
the greater the shortage of high-tech workers will become. Again,
this does not mean we should not attempt to bring people into
well paying high-tech jobs; but it does mean that we will have
to radically readjust our thinking about the future of economics.
long argued that the fundamental commodity of this new economy
is not goods and services or even money, it is information.
This new economic system is based on the ever-expanding production
of information. Improvements in the quality and quantity of
goods and services are, in most cases, a side effect or by product
of information production. That is the true meaning of automation.
In an industrial
economy, there are relatively long cycles involved in producing
new products for the market or even for internal use. Production
involved many steps, a large portion of them involving relations
with suppliers who were outside the control of the corporation
needing what they supplied. One of the reasons automation has
come into existence is to shorten those cycles.
of information, on the other hand, can follow very short cycles.
In an automated process every interaction in the production
cycle is usually audited at some level. This mean that even
in the early design stage of a new product, information is being
produced in large volumes. In many cases the raw information
produced contains too many details, so it is further processed
into reports, which in turn are presented to the people who
manage the process. Then the results of a large number of these
reports may get aggregated into other reports and so on.
to continue to shorten production cycles and speed up time to
market, corporations are racing to make a process more efficient
by integrating more and more of the components of the production
cycle into a single unified information structure. This means
that the people who work in these cycles have more access to
information than they have had in the past.
engineer, for example, may gain access through an Enterprise
Resource Planner (ERP to the cognoscenti). The ERP contains
a diagram of a large device (say a jet engine) where every component
part is linked to a database that is constantly refreshed with
all of the inventory information known for that component. The
engineer may then have the system automatically poll an Internet
site for the best deal to be had on that part. The part can
be ordered on the spot, with a purchase order immediately sent
to the chosen supplier. This process also includes regular updates
on when the part is to be delivered, by which carrier, with
the appropriate bill of lading identifiers automatically sent
back to the initiating ERP system, which then can keep the engineer
and management team appraised of the status of the part order.
The system can even be set to notify the engineer with an email
if the expected arrival date changes for any reason.
get even more complicated. The engineer may need to do research
on the suppliers to make sure the one chosen will supply parts
that are high quality. This can mean sifting through journals
and calling contacts at other firms. Nowadays it is more likely
using a search engine on the Internet or on the local document
management system (if the corporation has been saving articles
on suppliers in its document management system). Then issues
may arise about which kinds of parts can be assembled by the
robots that were just installed on the assembly line. More searches
and telephone calls proceed from here. If the engineer makes
any mistakes, it could seriously impact production and loose
millions of dollars.
So the engineer
may start to rely on special software. Or he or she may look
to Internet sites focused on jet engine production that can
furnish answers quickly and reliably. While it costs money for
the software or to use the Internet site, it also reduces the
time it takes to make a decision and does not increase the number
of people in the engineer’s department. The point is that
the management of information is becoming the primary factor
determining how things are done or not done in this new economy.
Better information management means more efficiency and (leaving
aside market speculation) more profits.
information management comes with its own set of special circumstances.
It involves several components: collection, classification,
storage and retrieval.
is the process of gathering the data from its source and preparing
it for entry into an electronic repository.
is where other descriptive data is added to the source data
to make it easier to find later on. Classification can happen
before, during or after collection(3).
means placing the data in electronic media for future retrieval.
Storage involves worrying about how quickly the data needs to
be retrieved, how much redundancy is needed to insure reliability
and whether or not to store the data centrally or in a geographically
is a collection of processes where a user can request information
based on any number of identifiers from unique identifiers such
as a product id to non-unique identifiers, such as keywords
or concepts. More >>