Time to revisit a blog I posted in early 2018. What has changed?
Not much. We still face the same issues.
They are all connected, but usually people talk about these issues separately as though they have nothing to do with each other. Which is a problem of course. Because they are all connected in some way.
We still have a jobs issue.
There are not enough jobs, and not enough well paying jobs. The “new” well paying jobs are only available to people with rare skills.
But there are an ever-increasing number of low wage, contract, part time and “slave class” jobs. And there is deliberate fudging of the employment and underemployment figures for political comfort.
Real unemployment and underemployment in Australia is still near to 20% of the workforce, which is a big issue. Thank goodness that Roy Morgan is doing a good job at keeping the record straight. Unemployment and underemployment is 19.3% or 2.59 million people looking for work or for more work.
We still have an education issue.
We are educating for the disappearing world. And parents are a major contributor to this problem.
They haven’t yet awoken to the “changing nature of work” due to digital disruption with its destructive impact on 47% of existing jobs.
Parents continue to support school curricula based on their own personal school experience.
But when you are paying large fees for education, you are entitled to wonder what the school fees are actually preparing little “William and Emma” for.
Because current teaching is not preparing Australian students for the challenges of the 21stcentury.
It is barely preparing them for the challenges of 1958, let alone the new challenges of 2018 and beyond.
Teaching coding at school is not the answer. Promoting STEM is not the answer either. Both ideas presuppose no real change in what “work is and what a job is” when traditional jobs and workplaces are both seriously challenged by digital disruption.
We must first clarify which workplaces will survive and what a job will become, then we may be able to create a curriculum that delivers for the new world.
We still have a skills issue
Digital disruption is affecting all industries and business categories, but it particularly impacts individuals – all of whom have differing capabilities and skills. Not everybody is good at Maths and Science or English (brain). Some people have strong design skills (eye), some people have strong practical trade skills (hand). Some people have a mix of those skills. Some people have no skills. We have to support all of them. Because some will be left out, and we need to plan how we can include everybody.
We still have a creativity issue
What can’t robots do? Be creative. We need to nurture creative skills, imagination and innovation more than ever before. We need to promote Art and English and History and Music actively in schools and universities. We are doing the opposite.
We need to teach children to experiment, “try things and see”, launch and fail, launch and learn. We need to ask “what if?”
We need to ask hard questions more than any time in our history. Yet we are squashing questioning and creativity in our educational system. And in our political system. And in our media.
Free education sponsors experimentation, trial and exploring options. Having to pay for education encourages the payer to look for the likeliest and quickest return on investment. What’s the ROI? And that is hard to answer in a digitally disrupted world.
“I need a well paid job to pay down my loan.” Just at a time when the very notion of a well paid job or finding a job of any kind is under threat. Wrong direction.
We definitely still have an inequality issue – the 1%
Given that 8 men now own the same wealth as half the world’s population, or the top 10% of the population now own 85% of the world’s wealth, we are creating a condition that is toxic, explosive and dangerous.
And we did this. Not God. Not Mother Nature. Us. Human beings. In fact our politicians did this. And do nothing whatsoever to amend it.
Apparently “World leaders are concerned”. But concern has not yet translated into action. Big businesses and the super rich dodge taxes, using their power to influence politics and drive down wages. And 1 in 10 people survive on less than $2 a day. So it is up to us to fix the problem. There is a lot that can be done. We just need to do it. Which brings me to the next issue.
We still have a leadership issue
Jobs are eroding steadily, moving from full time to contract, part time, freelance and “no chance”, and from high wage to low wage and wage slave.
As a country and collaboratively, we need to push back intelligently against this erosion. To give us time to think about the broader implications of digital disruption on society as a whole.
And this needs leadership. In the absence of political leadership, business leaders have to put up their hands. And all of us have a part to play. Leadership from behind, from below, from the sidelines, from anywhere – see https://theredtoolbox.org for an example of collaboration.
But let’s do something and go somewhere, not just stand around talking.
We still have a perception issue
The digital revolution is personal. On the one hand, it destroys businesses. It eliminates jobs. It shifts people from high wage jobs to low wage jobs. It challenges individual sense of purpose and value. It impacts councils and regions, and states and countries. It creates second-class citizens and digital divides. It’s seen as bad.
On the other hand, it offers easy access to information. It provides a platform for startups and scaleups. It creates new opportunities for high wage jobs. It helps small businesses “punch above their weight”. It connects, collaborates and integrates. It’s seen as good.
Two faced. The digital revolution brings threat. It brings opportunity. It brings threat to one person and opportunity to another. And the viewer defines the view. It is neither good nor bad. It is a transformational revolution that is changing the world. But we need to see it clearly for what it is. And use it.
We still have a “response” issue
For us to be happy in hindsight (2030), we can’t just let the ”day to day” happen to us passively as we do at present. We must manage this revolution sensibly starting now. It is a real revolution and its effects are broader and further reaching than we might have expected. And it’s happening everywhere, all at the same time.
But we are out of balance in our response. It’s not just jobs that are disappearing, businesses are. The entities that employ people, and offer the jobs in the first place. Whole industry sectors are under threat. And a few extra jobs in aged care and disability services are not the panacea to our jobs problem.
We have to act with vision and purpose. Collaboratively.
People only see their piece in the puzzle. “It is good for me (I can do my job better)… or it is bad for me (I just lost my job).
Like frogs in wells we experience a personalised view of the sky. And take action in our interest only.
Partial. Circular. Narrow. Parochial. Personal. Which is what you might expect.
But it is the wrong perspective. Action and response has to be national. Holistic. Universal. Individually we can dig a hole. Together we can move mountains.
We still have an “overload” issue
It is an enormous digital revolution. Overwhelming.
There is too much information available and human beings are good at doing “one thing at a time”. We have no time. We make no time.
And most of us have little energy or inclination to investigate and comprehend the full extent of the digital revolution’s disruptive impacts.
It’s easier to ignore it for now. Ignore all the “elephants in the room”.
We are only interested in “how is it going to affect me?” not “how is it going to impact my region, my country, my future, my kids, my grandkids?”
The big questions are for someone else to consider, but we are not quite sure who that somebody else might be.
That person doesn’t actually exist. Not in government, or commerce or elsewhere. This is something that can only be fixed collaboratively.
And nothing, nobody and nowhere is immune.
Though some folk think they are.
Let it just happen to us and we accept an even wilder jungle to live in. That seems to be our current strategy (if you can call it that).
Manage the change with intelligence and we can establish a new “digital agriculture” – generating new wealth and farming new value.
Can we do it?
Yes we can. We managed the shift to food security over 12,000 years ago, moving from hunter gathering to farming. With benefits for all.
We now need to do the same thing with technology, moving from “leave it to the market” to “manage it collaboratively or rue the consequences”.
We have to manage the business of “generating wealth” and its distribution with intelligence. Action and reward need revisiting.
It always intrigues me – witnessing the shift in a person’s mind when the light goes on – when they realise that they (a person) can actually do something under their own steam, without being told what to do (act independently).
We become so used to being passive watchers, listeners, observers and commentators in life, taught to shut up and listen from school, and on into employment.
Our good ideas ignored, or ridiculed.
Then one day, we suddenly wake up to understand the “power of one”.
Every meaningful change in history has started with one human being.
Started with a realisation “I can do this”, no matter what, no matter how small or how big the thing is that I want to do. And once that realisation moves from thought to action…change begins.
We can as individuals all do something to manage this enormous disruption in the world for our collective benefit. And we can as collaborative groups of individuals manage this disruption in our communities and our sectors for our collective and individual benefit.
Marching on the streets isn’t it. That is just commentary on two legs.
Getting on with it is where the leverage is – for anything and everything.
We actually need to get on with 4 things.
Inform – publish and share a clear picture of digital threat and opportunity so people can make informed choices.
Attack – increase business health and resilience in all our productive industries – adding value and increasing export.
Defend – Manage the impact for those sectors most under threat from digital disruption, working with “trust brokers” wherever they may be to offer options, training and strategies to slow the impacts and provide time and opportunity.
Help the excluded – not everybody will be able to play this new game = no skills. We need to explore new ways of rewarding value for those who will not be able to engage in the work-wage relationship = UBI, tokenisation etc. And we need to start now.
Watching = not good enough.
Acting in intelligent collaboration with others = fixing things up.
There are plenty of “wicked problems” in the world. Take your pick on where to start today.