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New era: Digital transformation

Today, you can make a three-minute phone call to many overseas countries for under 30 cents -- compared to an $800 tab a half-century ago (in today's dollars).

This example helps illustrate the astounding change in daily life wrought by brilliant electronic and computer scientists. The snowballing Digital Age keeps transforming most people's work careers and home life. Computers and devices grow ever-cheaper, ever different, ever-more-powerful and ever-more-essential for human functioning.

Researcher Ed Lozowska once remarked:

"If, over the past 30 years, transportation technology had improved at the same rate as information technology with respect to size, cost, performance and energy efficiency, then an automobile would be the size of a toaster, cost $200, go 100,000 miles per hour and travel 150,000 miles on a gallon of fuel."

The Information Age relentlessly is taking control of the world, thanks to constant advances in electronic hardware and software. More and more jobs involve computers and the knowledge they manipulate. The value of blue-collar labor keeps diminishing.

Economist Richard Lipsey listed results of this high-tech tsunami:

"Destruction of human capital, as many old skills are no longer wanted... Widening disparities in the distribution of income... Big changes in required education... Big changes in infrastructure, e.g., the Information Highway... Big changes in rules and regulations (intellectual property, antimonopoly, etc.)."

The new Digital Age boosts the output of individual workers. One report says:

"Automation and computerization have resulted in higher productivity coupled with net job loss. In the United States, for example, from January 1972 to August 2010, the number of people employed in manufacturing jobs fell from 17.5 million to 11.5 million, while manufacturing value rose 270 percent."

In modern life, "mind jobs" offer the best careers. Working with information constantly provides more of America's gross domestic product.

Nobody can predict all the coming developments in the computer revolution and the Information Age. The only safe forecast is that more education will be needed. Families should make sure their children get as much training as possible, to prepare for the Brave New World that is unfolding.


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