What Has Changed

I began my career as an engineering assistant at Raytheon over 50 years ago.  Since then, I have founded and managed five high-tech companies, and held faculty positions at six universities.  These experiences led to working with 100+ companies, agencies, foundations, etc.  What has changed over the course of this journey?

  • Increased computing power at steadily decreasing costs, big data, and visualization technology enabled, but did not always lead to, increased evidence-based decision making.  There were substantial investments in ICT in banking, finance, and retail.
  • Substantial consolidation in the healthcare, aerospace and defense, automotive, and semiconductor industries led to much larger enterprises and but steadily decreasing competition.  A few companies dominate each market sector.
  • Between the mid 2000s and late 2010s, applications to form businesses that would likely hire workers fell 16%.  New business applications fell 24% in 2008, 4% in 2011 and 6% in 2014, and grew just under 1% last year.  Bottom-up innovation suffered.
  • Online service delivery soared, especially for retail and mobility services.  Supply chains became increasingly automated.  Portable digital devices became pervasive with consumers.  Online social media flourished.
  • Starting perhaps with the 9/11attacks on the US, terrorism has taken center stage, increasingly accompanied by cyber threats and the manipulation of elections, pervasively intertwined with social media, fake news, and conspiracy theories.
  • Driven by the recent pandemic, remote working from home and online education soared, undermining the value of bricks & mortar as well as the industries that serve these establishments, e.g., food and maintenance services
  • Despite the power of computing and connectivity, humans remain behavioral and social animals with desires, inclinations and biases similar to their less computer-oriented and connected ancestors.  We have become digital natives, but still natives.

How should we interpret these seven trends and what do they portend for the future?

  • Continued technological innovation will increasingly enhance efficiency and effectiveness of healthcare, education, energy, national security, and other domains, leading to enormous service improvements with lower costs.
  • Workforce displacement will be substantial as routine jobs and tasks will be increasingly automated while there will be strong growth of jobs for the skilled technical workforce; many will be educated and trained in community colleges.
  • The total population will need to be educated, equivalent to a high school graduation rate of 100%, to be able to join the skilled technical workforce.  To accomplish this, US community college capacity will need to triple.
  • Substantial investments will be needed to facilitate these changes and keep the US competitive in the global marketplace.  Beyond investments, policies associated with immigration and employment will need to be aligned with these objectives.
  • All of the above will require new perspectives on change and associated visions for pursuing these changes.  Discussions and debates will center on global competitiveness and needs for a healthy, educated and productive workforce.
  • Equitable access to opportunities and services, such as healthcare and education, will receive particular attention and targeted investments, both to increase equity and leverage talent in the global competition.  There will be a shared sense that no one can be left behind.

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