Jobs and the Tech Boom

Scott Francis
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After several years of gloom-and-doom reporting on the economy, we’re starting to see signs of sunshine.  The numbers are coming back better than people feared, better than they expected.  Two recent articles drove home for me, a few reasons for optimism. First is “The Coming Tech-led Boom” by Mark Mills and Julio Ottino of the Wall Street Journal. The premise?
In January 2012, we sit again on the cusp of three grand technological transformations with the potential to rival that of the past century. All find their epicenters in America: big data, smart manufacturing and the wireless revolution.
When an iPhone’s compute power trumps a 70’s era mainframe, they argue, unimaginable new markets await.  When a box in your living room (a 3D printer) can build products for you out of plastic, and manufacturing can happen at the molecular level, a host of new innovations await. Not to mention new business models that let you raise money before you build product, which allows the funding of niche products that might not have made sense before.  Finally, we’ll soon have a billion people able to communicate wirelessly:
The implications of the radical collapse in the cost of wireless connectivity are as big as those following the dawn of telegraphy/telephony. Coupled with the cloud, the wireless world provides cheap connectivity, information and processing power to nearly everyone, everywhere. This introduces both rapid change—e.g., the Arab Spring—and great opportunity. Again, both the launch and epicenter of this technology reside in America.
The authors also have some interesting demographic arguments that I’ve not heard before, and I haven’t fact-checked, but seem to pass the “common-sense” test:
First, demographics. By 2020, America will be younger than both China and the euro zone, if the latter still exists. Youth brings more than a base of workers and taxpayers; it brings the ineluctable energy that propels everything. Amplified and leavened by the experience of their elders, youth and economic scale (the U.S. is still the world’s largest economy) are not to be underestimated, especially in the context of the other two great forces: our culture and educational system.
The authors make a persuasive argument about the coming Tech-led boom.  And moreover that America will benefit from it.  But there’s more to be found from another article.  This one is focused on the jobs Apple has brought to America.  The argument Trevor Gilbert makes is that Apple brought jobs to America, just not the ones we asked for.  That in fact, the jobs produced around the App economy number 466,000 over the last few years.  Which is quite a lot.  And it happens to be a set of jobs that are high paying, creative, and demanding.  Moreover, he argues that smaller companies create more ancillary support jobs (cleaning crew, etc.) because they don’t already have a cleaning crew on staff, for example. Moreover, Apple’s isn’t the only “App” store out there now.  Other companies are opening up their platforms to indie developers, who can then spawn new innovations and companies. As he concludes:
Apple, Google and Microsoft have managed to push an entirely new segment of the market in this country. A market that pays people more than minimum wage, and a market where people can be their own bosses. A market that didn’t exist before, and yet is now responsible for 466,000 jobs since 2008. Sure, it’s not politically palatable, but frankly, that doesn’t really matter. The numbers speak for themself in the end.
It’s an interesting argument for a healthier economy going forward.  I’m not sure if they’re right, but I know that we’re going to find out one way or the other, real soon now.  I think for the process world, these innovations really alter the landscape of “what is a business process” and will be really transformative to business – and therefore, to business processes.  We’re looking forward to seeing what the future holds.  

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