By Chet Yarbrough
The Industries of the Future
By Alec Ross
Narrated by Alec Ross
Alec Ross (Author, American technology policy expert)
Alec Ross’s book about future industries is founded on world travel and observation. Ross is an historian by education. His wide-ranging view of sociological change is from personal experience with technology and the information-age.
Ross observes social change around the world as a senior adviser to then Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton. His dizzying travels explain how mobile phones connect the world and change economic, political, and social opportunity for both third world, and highly industrialized countries.
Ross’s fundamental argument is that “…Industries of the Future” will be based on information technology. The forefront of that technology rests on software (coding) and human evolution (genetics).
Despite nationalism and the horrendous consequence of Covid19 on the world, Trump-like government leaders who focus on nationalist independence and existing manufacturing jobs are job destroyers; not creators.
New jobs will not come from expanded labor-intensive manufacturing but from the accumulation and use of data. Ross suggests coding and genetics will determine jobs of the future.
Ross infers creators of code are tomorrow’s laborers. Today, learning how to code is a valuable skill that insures employment through and beyond the 21st century.
Though there is hyperbole in Ross’s suggestion that today’s coders make a high wage of $100,000+ a year, they do make an entry level living wage with vertical mobility. As the market matures, coder’s income will undoubtedly keep pace with expanding economies.
Ross shows how coding opens the door to automating the manufacturing world. Human labor to make things will change to coding labor that ultimately leads to machines building machines.
Artificial Intelligence is common today and will be ubiquitous tomorrow.
The automobile industry is increasingly relying on machine assembly of automobiles. The manufacturing process still requires human supervision, but physical labor will be increasingly code driven.
Numerous examples are noted by Ross. Driving a car is simpler because of A. I. Using GPS maps shorten travel time, gauge traffic congestion, and locate lost devices. The obvious effect of information technology is reduction in physical labor with employee job change, reeducation camps, and new employment. This is a tough reality for today’s laborers; particularly those who work hard every day. The rise of A. I. contradicts the industrial age’s moral belief that character is enhanced by hard labor.
The laborer says, “I am not going to lose my job to a machine”. From a production line laborer or steel worker of a certain age, it is a message once said by Luddites in the nineteenth century. In the industrial age Luddites began dismantling machinery that cost their jobs.
Job upheaval is frightening. However, Ross suggests the information-age offers the greatest opportunity for the world since the industrial revolution. President Trump’s populist effort to turn back time creates false hope for many hard working Americans.
Employees in dying professions should be helped by private industry and the government to retrain and embrace inevitable market changes. America needs a Rooseveltian and internationalist response to Covid 19 and the advance of technology.
What Ross shows is that industrialized nations that choose not react positively; to be proactive to the information age are destined to decline. Ross shows how third world countries in Africa see opportunities that were never seen before because of technology.
With a mobile phone, African men and women have become entrepreneurs because they can communicate with wider circles of influence and support. Their phones become banks for loans and payments; and more importantly, for investment in themselves.
Ross explains another opportunity presented by the information age in farming. As has been known for centuries, farm productivity is improved by appropriate management and use of natural resources and man-made fertilizers. That customization increases the world’s food supply in ways that could only be approximated in the industrial age. Coded farm machines replace day laborer planting, cultivation, and harvesting,
With the advent of automated farm management systems, soil preparation, planting, and harvesting operations can be more precisely customized.
The second fundamental argument in Ross’s book regards genetics. Understanding of genetic science and our ability to manipulate genetic markers is a wild-west opportunity.
In theory, genetic modification can be a threat to the ecology of the earth, a monumental environmental catastrophe.
To Ross, genetic modification is a boon for agricultural and human productivity that will lead the world out of environmental and human crises.
Giant steps have been and are being made in genetic modification of agricultural products. Ross notes reports of crop productivity increases due to disease resistance coming from genetically modified seeds. Ross argues that GMO opponents are wrong in suggesting “natural” agricultural products are any safer than genetically modified food products.
Ross sites reports of GMO foods that show they are equally or more nutritionally beneficial to humankind than non-GMO foods.
Many would agree with Ross’s assessment of the success of GMO production. However, modification of the human genome opens a much higher level of concern.
There are moral and ethical questions raised by science and religion with experimentation on the human genome. On the one hand, it raises the possibility of erasing the diseases of humankind. On the other, there is the fictional account of the “Island of Dr. Moreau”. Both concerns are expressed in the controversy surrounding the 2018 human gene editing in Hong Kong by Dr. He Jiankui, a Chinese researcher.
Dr. He Jiankui (Claims to have conducted the first human genome-editing of a human embryo)
Ross approaches “The Industries of the Future” from a more historical than scientific perspective. His book sees great opportunity in information technology, but proof is largely unborn history. The technological revolution is not like the industrial revolution because it goes beyond Newton’s laws and only touches Einstein’s. Ross seems more likely right than wrong but only the future will tell, and only history will prove it.