Category Archives: Technology

The Integrata Foundation: An Approach between Liberation and Alienation through Information Technology

Heilmann Dr. Wolfgang Heilmann is a German economist and honorary professor at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology . He studied economics and philosophy in Frankfurt and Tubingen, where he graduated with a degree in economics. Later on he received his doctorate with a thesis on “social utopias of the modern era” at Hans Peter .

For more details go to the end of article.   The concept of the Integrata Foundation for the Humane Use of Information Technology is expressed by its name. The humane use of information technology would pursue a course of action between the societal decoupling (liberation) and alienation caused by information technology, a tool that, in particular, should be used to attain additional benefits for society, i.e. more quality of life for every individual person and mankind as such. The objective of the Integrata Foundation is to contribute to this epochal social process of restoration for the benefit of mankind within the meaning of democratic humanism.

Foreword

This paper focuses on the humane use of information technology. The Integrata Foundation believes this technology, which is gaining a foothold in more and more areas of life, should be a tool for improving living conditions and proposes that this attribute be adopted in the decisions taken by the responsible persons in government, business and society. Humanization should take priority over rationalization and functionalization. What do we precisely mean by humane use of information technology? Naturally it concerns man; however, not so much as an individual as a citizen in today’s society. The state in its function as a democratically legitimized body binds the individual to society and provides the necessary infrastructure; accordingly it also plays an important part regarding the use of information technology. Consequently, we are addressing first and foremost responsible citizens in a democratic society as well as all persons who want to shape their lives and future in an information society. Bearing this in mind, we are concentrating on information technology. It played a decicsive part in developing the concept of our foundation and also encompasses communication technology which, in our understanding, comprises the methods and processes used for transmitting and exchanging information; and we attribute particular importance to this aspect. Nonetheless, a significant point is that we do not want to primarily concentrate on the engineering, the machines and devices, nor on the networks and services provided by telecommunication, but above all on the methods and processes used to apply them, i.e. the technology, which includes the engineering and organization, and all types of application systems and programs. This includes both the programs that are being used in millions of computers and in billions of test points and, hence, exert an influence on us as well as the myriad pro? grams broadcast by television and other media. In this connection, the question as to what use these programs have keeps coming up. As citizens we demand that this technology provide additional benefits to society. We are well aware of the additional economic benefits gained throughout 200 years of technical development: the enormous reduction in working hours and simultaneous increase in buying power made possible by the use of technology. In future, too, technology will have to ensure such development so as to secure an adequate standard of living for all people, or to create this for about two billion people. This is undoubtedly the most important task facing the world. Yet “man shall not live on bread alone”, as the prophets state in the Bible. We realize that not only material need has to be healed but ever more agonizing spiritual shallowness needs to be overcome. This is where information technology can serve its greatest purpose – the second most important task in our world so to say. It is here that we expect additional social benefits! What has information technology brought us in this respect up to now?

1. Decoupling through information technology Information and communication technology is an encompassing innovation bearing extensive consequences for individuals, business and society. We can say with certainty that industrial society was transformed into an information society within the span of several decades. This is particularly true for the wealthy western countries and so?called threshold countries. The developing countries will follow. This innovation process will transform them, too, sooner or later. Poor countries will turn into blooming areas of a humane world community, the people there will no longer suffer need and hardship, and they will mature into self?confident individuals. In the course of theoretical observation this development could be viewed as liberation from many of the evils in today’s world. Reality, however, presents a very different picture. When information technologies are set in the fore of consideration, it would be better to use the sociological term of decoupling. This refers to a process, in which the bonds between a system and its inner and outer surroundings are loosened, thereby increasing its scope of independence and autonomy. One needs to distinguish between different forms of decoupling (see also W. Heilmann: Telemedien und Soziale Prozesse, Thesen zur Informations-gesellschaft, inaugural lecture on 7 December 1999, University of Karlsruhe). 1.1 Through spatial decoupling, made possible in many jobs by information technology, tele-work, for example, has become standard in the meantime. Although it originally referred to a modern form of “work at home”, practically any type of office work now is a teleprocess between people and machines.

Through myriad combinations and types of functions of machines and processes, people working in neighboring offices mainly communicate by means of information technology and people located far away from one another work together as though they were in the same office. Distance no longer is an organizational obstacle: technology has become ubiquitary.

1.2 The ensuing independence of a certain place is augmented by the chronological decoupling made possible by teleprocesses, i.e. periods of time and points of time have gained greater independence. Studies have shown that people can divide their time more freely between work and leisure time. Moreover, the asynchronous functioning of many services and devices allow worldwide communication to be relatively independent of the time zones in which offices working together are located. In other words, one can affirm that information technology has helped modern man gain a certain sovereignty of place and time. In this respect, we have become more free.

1.3 A third dimension of decentralization, which bears considerably more liberation, is attained by the disciplinary decoupling that is connected to tele?processes. Although an employee who works at his computer at home or while traveling most likely is not doing this without some type of monitoring, he is relatively independent of his boss. Thus, the high degree of self?determination which people have achieved in their free time is transferred to working and business life. This disciplinary decoupling is supported by a series of significant developments on the labor market: part?time work and sabbaticals lessen the need for being present and new contractual relationships, such as free?lance work, are transforming the old employment contracts into agreements between two legally equal parties.

1.4 This statement does not say much about the economic or social status of the contracting partners; however, from a sociological point of view this is a considerably more far?reaching process of decoupling. Social decoupling, which we understand to refer to a loosening of the social ties between people and their social environment, goes far beyond anything that was possible in former times. Together with the spatial, chronological and disciplinary dimensions of decentralization mentioned above, man is gaining a previously unknown degree of independence and freedom through social decoupling. Does this mean that information technology brings liberation after all? Reality is nowhere close to that. Hence, Frank Schirrmacher, on the cover of his book “Payback”, actually poses the question: “Why are we forced to do what we don’t want to do in the age of information?”

2. Alienation through information technology As a matter of fact, the independence and freedom of the individual is not only guaran? teed but also threatened by information technology: • We are flooded with information. • We suffer cell phone terror. • We are bombarded by emails. • We are the victims of large?scale government surveillance. • We are being robbed and cheated through computer crime. • There is a need for education despite unprecedented educational opportunities. • Advertising lies and dulls the minds of consumers… If one takes these headlines seriously, one could gain the impression that man is in the process of sacrificing the ideal of a humane society to a powerful technology.

Who is to blame for this plight? The technology as such is neutral and can be put to good or bad use! Business practices should be scrutinized because they are mandated by people who should know better. And what about the government? The government is suffering shock from terrorism. Here, too, people carry responsibility. So, again it is ourselves we have to look to! But we – people as such – refuse to take any blame or, even worse, do not even notice any of this: even though it is we who write the programs that torture and manipulate us. “The most scary thing of all is man,” says the film expert Marcus Stiegler about the new fascination with horror in movies, comics and computer games. Do we still have sufficient control over our everyday lives? Or are we too dependent on the media, whose products blow us around like strong winds? In other words, information technology does not have only positive effects on our society, but also very alarming ones as well. As is true of any tool, computers, the internet and the media also have repercussions on the users; and, moreover, the more intensive the influence becomes, the more stronger the repercussion. From a certain point on, the mastery of man is reversed into servitude; a continuously accelerating process of alienation starts to take over. “Alienation” – as defined in German Wikipedia dated 13 December 2009 ? “is the socially advanced, irreversible process of the appropriation of nature as well as its material and spiritual transformation to culture, including the institutions, which seem heteronomous as soon as they dominate man and oppose man’s individual and collective wish? es.”

2.1 Examples from everyday life Some examples of information technology in everyday life will be given to substantiate and exemplify that alienation begins at the workplace, where we are told by a workflow or project management system what needs to be done. Many prefer this to being ordered around by a human boss. The consequences of this kind of organizational structure will soon become evident, i.e. because of the daily repetition we will have to repeatedly capture and process monitoring and control signals from more and more systems. Such impulses shape us the same way as the TV shows we watch every evening. Hence, Mathias Eckold, in the AULA show broadcast by WDR2 on 14 September 2008, which had the title “You will become what you watch…”, concludes: “We feel the power of the media even if we consider the ‘entertainment shows too stupid’, the ‘sports cover? age too extensive’, the ‘news too hungry for scandals’, and the ‘crime films too blood? thirsty’ … we are strongly influenced by them.” The power of the media will also be felt if one avoids TV and surfs in the Internet instead to gain information or education. The powerful search machines offer almost anything that man desires – also a remarkable and high?quality selection of education, art and science. Not everyone immediately finds what he is looking for or needs, but the systems are becoming better and more influential. Nonetheless, an increasingly critical awareness is growing in the general public. Hence the computer pioneer and professor of computer science, Dr. Maurer, criticizes Google “because it is expanding its opinion? forming power and gaining a monopoly by means of acquisitions”. It is offering information that more and more people are accepting uncritically, believing it to be true.

The ranking of the contributions is particularly problematic, especially when it is influenced by certain methods. The collection and evaluation of personal data is utterly unacceptable. The possibilities of misuse are obvious. In many other instances the general public is not yet aware of what has actually happened as a result of electronic media. This is so because the concrete manifestations of information and communication technology, which the citizens of our western, democratic world encounter every day, are changing our reality and, hence, also our view of reality. The reality experienced by our fathers was different from the “medial reality” known to our children. We are moving further and further away from the old world and are increasingly moving into the sphere of influence of all kinds of programs. Computers or information and communication technology affect our behavior, thinking and feeling so strongly that we find it hard to remain aware of our humanness, much less develop it further. We simply do not have time for this, and in the process, we are losing our sense of what is appropriate for us as humans and citizens. Through external control, commercial manipulation and exposure to a constant stream of media programs, we are becoming a program?controlled society in which individuals are more or less controlled by programs. And many are actually starting to think and act digitally. That’s the problem!

2.2 What the future holds in store “No, that’s not true!” many of us will say. “We are still the ones making the decisions and the computer is a stupid mathematical slave.” Norbert Hering, who spoke “about the limits of understanding between the brain and processor” at MEDICA MEDIA a couple of years ago (2002), affirms that the principle “Man in control” is still true. We would like to add: And that is how it should be! Only if this is true can we speak about humane use of information technology. Nevertheless – and we need to raise this question – aren’t there situations in which man would benefit significantly if the computer made decisions on the spot and without further inquiry, for example whenever security is concerned or utmost precision and very fast reactions are called for or in medicine? These kinds of situations will occur, but also some which would serve us less. “Cyber warfare”, the dilemma of modern warfare, probably is the worst thing that comes to mind in this respect. In this scenario not only a computer but a whole arsenal of digital tools and devices as well as complex information and communication networks would act for us. What worries us most of all, however, is the unbelievably fast interlinking of digital in? formation systems in the Internet. At first it was only an attempt at improving the ex? change of knowledge between scientists. This experiment was more successful than anticipated. Now the Internet consists of thousands of networks with millions of hubs (computers) that administer billions of websites. And this convolute is growing incessantly. It is preparing to gather the entire knowledge gained by mankind and to make it available for further use. Will we need to confront a giant brain similar to that de? scribed by Heinrich Hauser in his science?fiction novel more than 50 years ago? At any rate, it is doubtful whether it could be destroyed with the help of such simple creatures as ravenous ants.

Right now the system is still going through children’s diseases: one has to search for a while to find the information that generates knowledge (in man). Nonetheless, this – as such not intelligent – meta?brain is acquiring a body, which will be veritably omnipresent in a not so distant future. By this we mean the innumerable embedded systems that will soon be component parts of the objects we use in our daily lives, leading a more or less inconspicuous and informal life there. In connection with semantic systems, they will meter and report states, they will identify and communicate with us, and they will denounce us – not only to other people, but above all to machines and within the system network. Evidently a new species is developing, a species that at best may be indifferent towards life, but definitely not friendly: the digital species. Do we still have a chance of maintaining control of a centrally controlled computer network that computes, tests, makes decisions, reproduces itself and learns at the speed of light? Or will the digital principle triumph over the analog principle of life in the end? In other words, our considerations are not limited to the computer per se, but concern the age?old philosophical question as to man, his being and position in the world. In our times man’s position as creation’s crowning glory is being relativized. Man, the analog being, is facing the tool created by him; a tool that embodies possibilities far exceeding those of a “sorcerer’s apprentice”.

The digital omnipresence and productivity of this tool are becoming a global challenge. Will mankind be overcome by a malignant disease or simply be swept aside without protest? Will people remain masters of their life or will they be degraded to servants of digital control and surveillance systems, will they be? come strangers who do not see and much less understand, or want to understand, the whole? In this unavoidable dispute between man and computer, the Integrata Foundation takes the side of man. We do not want the hard?won freedom gained from natural and government forces in the course of many centuries to be lost to a tool. We want to live in a self?determined humane world in future.

2.3 Possible courses of action Yet who should, who can counter?act this development with even a bare chance of success? The ethical?moral standards are so high that no government institution can meet them. This can be expected even less from a commercial system; and religious institutions are out of the question for all the people who do not believe in God. Nonetheless, we would like to refer to the Global Ethic Declaration, initiated by the German theologian Hans Küng in 1993. According to German Wikipedia (18 September 2008), 6,500 persons from 125 regions and religious traditions participated. They agreed on four guiding principles, calling for a culture of non?violence, solidarity, tolerance and equal rights. Whereas one cannot but agree with these principles, they are far too elementary for the problems arising from information technology. Other people and associations, also such without any religious affiliation, are asking whether what is happening to us isn’t outside our power and decide – on the basis of fundamental considerations – to let it happen. After all, they assert, the use of modern technology, particularly in the field of information and communication, brings undisputable benefits not only to the commercial sector and government but also to every individual and all humankind. This opinion mainly is held by computer scientists and programmers, who deal with the instruments of information technology all the time. Internet professionals firmly believe that they have control over the medium, or they are so fascinated by it that they do not consider their dependence a problem but merely a bad habit. You can’t expect to be helped if you don’t see the problem. In contrast, the critical statement made recently by Frank Schirrmacher is very helpful. On the cover of his book, he points out that “a way out of the calculability of life and the threatening end of free will cannot be traced back to a refusal of technology but rather to a new way of thinking that reawakens man’s awareness of his strengths: creativity, tolerance and the ability to master unpredictable occurrences.” Nonetheless, it is doubtful whether the solution of our epochal socio-technical problem can be solved through an individual new way of thinking alone. The ideas and philosophy of the Transhumanists, by contrast, are too different from all that has been said. “Transhumanism” (Latin “trans” = beyond; Latin “humanus” = human) is a philosophical school of thought and active movement that advocates changing the human species through the use of technological methods. Its goal is to generally expand the limits of human possibility and, thus, improve the human condition in many different respects.

“Relevant technologies in this connection are, amongst others: nano-technology, genetic and bio-technology, bio?gerontology, cryonic and other bio?stasis technologies, cognitive sciences, information technology, artificial intelligence and up? loading consciousness into digital memories (German Wikipedia dated 17 December 2009). Even though Transhumanism pursues a similar goal as the Integrata Foundation, namely improving the human condition, and information technology definitely is one of the technologies with whose help this goal is pursued, we would like to point out that our focus is fundamentally different: the Transhumanists want to directly change man as a living being and, thus, improve his conditions of life. We, however, want to use technology to change the conditions of life and, thus, improve the life of man. We hope that this will also make people better. Obviously, the cultural and civilizational circumstances and values created by human activities are landmarks of an upwards development. Even the most dreadful destruction caused by wars and epidemics could not reverse this process – if one chooses a sufficiently long period of observation. Despite inconceivable human catastrophes and continuing significant differences between different regions of the world, we can assert that world culture today is better in terms of humaneness than any previous cultures known to us. However, civilization and culture did not develop linearly, there were bounds and surges.

The more significant the innovation was (hand?axe, plow, machine, computer), the greater the alienation from former conditions and the greater also the impulse for the spirit of mankind to create a new culture. Thus, alienation also can be a step towards more instead of less humaneness, and it is in this sense that we expect the alienation caused by information technology to lead to an epochal step forward for all world cultures. In the current phase of development we are still in the midst of generating IT innovations. But obvious faulty functions and defects of the system, which lead to disappointment, frustration and rejection among users are manifesting themselves. Thus, from the aspect of social politics, it is important that more and more critical voices pointing out the critical developments speak up. Yet, we must not only criticize technology, even if this already would be a form of social criticism. We must go beyond that stage and develop solutions to guide the developments in the correct and desired direction. This calls for tremendous efforts. Cultures that simply accepted results of alienation declined, were assimilated or simply perished. Since Arnold Toynbee’s “Challenge and Response”, we know that only those societies that face challenges and find solutions will give birth to a new civilization, a new culture.

The search for valid rules for dealing with alienation caused by information technology is primarily the responsibility of scientists, sociologists, psychologists, computer scientists and all those who in one way or another are professional users of information technology. Yet, what is being discussed in this paper is not only a concern of researchers. Since we are all more or less intensive users of information technology, this concerns all of us and we should all make a contribution. Followers won’t help us on, we need social politicians who will devise solutions now. The forces in society have to decide and act now. And we need practical examples for this as well as scientifically founded, pragmatic knowledge, we need the courage to make judgements and – as demanded by Popper – the courage to stand up for them. Bearing this in mind, our demand for a humane use of information technology is a call to everyone to participate in social synthesis. Efforts limited to individuals or small, widely dispersed groups are doomed to fail because of the comprehensive character of the threat of alienation. If we want the process of humanization to continue, we have to work together and act for the benefit of a democratic humanism.

3. Humane use of information technology The Integrata Foundation, in the spirit of such democratic humanism, campaigns for using information technology not only for rationalizing and functionalizing processes of life and work, but also for improving the quality of life of as many people as possible in all regions of the world. In this sense, it is first and foremost “socially” oriented, and technically oriented to a lesser extent. The necessary social synthesis means that we must act. We should all act like Jiu?Jitsu fighters, who absorb the strength of their opponent, bind it with their own strength and then force the opponent to his knees. Information technology must be willfully used as a tool, with which the world can be made more humane, both on a large and small scale. Our concrete goal can be summarized as follows:

3.1 More quality of life through information technology! The call for more quality of life forms the core of the foundation’s purpose. It is to be achieved by systematically using the possibilities offered by information technology. This task is primarily the responsibility of professionals working in the many fields of application as well as computer scientists and programmers, in other words anyone who organizes the use of information technology. Basically, they derive their specific tasks from their professions, which may be in businesses, scientific institutions or social organizations. Thus, we have a diverse and colorful setting, in which the pursuit of more quality of life isn’t coming into its own. Consequently, this situation is to be shifted towards a more humane form of information technology. For this reason it is necessary to highlight the fields of application which characterize the conditions of life in our society and, accordingly, to determine where it would be best to initiate improvements. The question as to a definition of humane is not posed in an absolute but only in a relative sense, as an alternative. This pragmatic way of proceeding is very old, perhaps as old as mankind itself. We looked for alternatives for our time and, using the highly complex term of “quality of life” as a framework, drew up the following list of ten issues, which we believe could and need to be improved at the present time. Thus, the ten is? sues devolve into ten criteria of quality of life: 1. Conserving and restoring physical and spiritual health.

2. Preserving inner and outer security, while protecting the freedom and dignity of man.

3. Creating and safeguarding freedom of movement and humane traffic conditions to ensure personal encounters.

4. Rebuilding the trust between communication partners by appropriate information and free communication.

5. Opening up the access to education and job training based on an individual’s abilities and, at the same time, also ensuring the ideological neutrality of educational institutions and entertainment.

6. Creating employment opportunities and possibilities to earn a living which are tailored to people and available in sufficient number and quality so as to promote common welfare and prosperity for everyone.

7. Developing information technology further so that it can be used as a helpful leadership by people of people in business and society.

8. Promoting the participation of citizens in public opinion?making and forming the community in such a way that freedom, order and justice are equally balanced.

9. Protecting nature and the environment against overexploitation and destruction, and promoting natural processes for the benefit of future generations. 10. Overcoming the lack of meaning and time of modern man and finding a dignified form of life with leisure for culture and religion.

3.2 The HumaniThesia portal

The HumaniThesia portal, which is still under construction, will be dedicated to research and presentation of the whole scope of topics related to the humane use of information technology. It will be open to users without any charge as soon as an internal pilot project has been completed. The central focus of the portal will be the ten criteria of quality of life. A forum will be set up for each cluster of topics, where the respective criterion can be discussed. The discussions will be open to all participants, amongst these also the Integrata Foundation. Depending on the intensity and productiveness of the discussions, interim results will be formulated and stored as such in the “Arguments” block of the portal by an editor (see Figure below)

 

Schematic HumanIThesia2

 

In addition, the “Arguments” block will provide relevant articles, contributions, manuscripts of lectures and other publications or links to such sources of information, and it will be built up like a reference work. It will also contain ethical?moral assessments, maxims, manifests and – vice-versa – critical contributions about the humane use of in? formation technology. We ascribe special importance to the “Examples” block, which will include practical proposals for improving the conditions of life with information technology as well as visions and concepts, projects, application examples and other relevant works, such as screenplays and TV spots that look into the subject critically. The “Teaching Texts and Compendia” make up a third block of information that will be made available to the public. These are teaching materials and web?based training modules on the core questions regarding the humane use of information technology. A glossary explaining the terms used in the portal, in particular the technical terms used by the Integrata Foundation, and a list of relevant literature will round off the portal. (Please see also: W. Heilmann. “HumaniThesia. Konzept eines Internet-Portals zur humanen Nutzung der Informationstechnologie.” www.humanithesia.org.) It is hoped that the HumaniThesia portal will become a center for discussing and implementing trend-setting examples of the humane use of information technology in the near future. The best proposals will be awarded the Wolfgang Heilmann Prize, which already has been granted ten times.

3.3 The Wolfgang Heilmann Prize Every year the Integrata Foundation awards the Wolfgang Heilmann Prize, named for the founder, to outstanding work that describes how modern control technology can be implemented to generate humane forms of work and employment, that significantly contributes to improving the conditions of life and promises to lead to a better quality of life. Pragmatic factors are at the foreground of the foundation’s considerations, i.e. it honors works that put forth conceptual proposals over and beyond the progress of knowledge. Such works can take the form of scientific contributions, project descriptions and other texts as well as screenplays. However, grand schemes are given lower ratings than concrete projects or best?practice presentations, because the latter are more likely to change our world, even if only in small details. It goes without saying that far reaching and concrete concepts are particularly prize?worthy. Since the establishment of the Integrata Foundation in 1999, the following topics have been announced and honored with prizes. For more detailed information about the prize?winners and their work, please go to www.integrata-stiftung.de/Preis. 1999: Tele-Services: Tele?cooperation, electronic commerce 2000: Tele-Learning: Job training and further training in a networked world 2001: Knowledge management as a contribution to the humane use of information technology 2002: Tele-Medicine: The humane use of information technology in medicine 2003: Tele-Management: Management in virtual organizations 2004/5: De-congestion of traffic through telematics and tele-cooperation 2005/6: More humane use of communication technology 2006/7: Security, information and media competence 2007/8: Citizen?centered applications of information and communication technologies 2009/10: More quality of life through information technology The prize is endowed with Euro 10,000.00 and can be divided among up to three prize? winners. A jury made up of experts from science, business and society chooses the winner. Decisions taken by the jury are final and cannot be contested. The members of the jury sit on the panel voluntarily. Up until now, the prize?worthy works were found after publication of a corresponding announcement. After the HumaniThesia portal is launched, the proposals submitted there will be included in the selection process. This means that every outstanding proposal published in the portal during a year has a chance of receiving the prize. In this way, we hope to offer an incentive to people, above all young people, and to win them over for the ideas promulgated by the foundation. The conflict between man and computer as well as the spiritual struggle for a more humane world must be borne by all social forces together. This will only prove successful in the long run if every new generation puts forth its ideas. It remains to be hoped that very many people from all areas of life, young and old, will take part in the HumaniThesia portal and help guide the development of information technology in the right direction – for the well?being of every individual person and mankind as a species.

The goal of the foundation is not to conserve the ash but to pass on the fire of humanity.

Bibliography Heilmann, Wolfgang. “Telemedien und soziale Prozesse, Thesen zur Informationsgesell? schaft.” Inaugural lecture, University of Karlsruhe, 7 December 1999. Hering, Norbert. “Über die Grenzen des Verstehens zwischen Gehirn und Prozessor.” Lecture, MEDICA MEDIA, Düsseldorf, 20 November 2002. Schirrmacher, Frank. Payback, 1st edition,

About the Author Dr. Wolfgang Heilmann is a German economist and honorary professor at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology . He studied economics and philosophy in Frankfurt and Tubingen, where he graduated with a degree in economics. Later on he received his doctorate with a thesis on “social utopias of the modern era” at Hans Peter . After working for IBM and in the engineering industry Heilmann founded the initially constructed as a “joint venture for integrated data processing” Integrata who converted in 1989 into a corporation. For the following ten years Dr. Heilmann served as corporation’s chief executive officer. In recognition of his business and social merits Heilmann 1995, the Federal Cross of Merit on Ribbon awarded. Dr. Heilmann is the founder of  Integrata Foundation for Humane Use of Information Technology, which has set itself the goal of improving the quality of life of all people through the use of information technology. The Foundation awards the Wolfgang Heilmann Prize for outstanding proposals for improving the use of computers in society.

Innovation in the Auto Industry – Part 1

D. ColeDr. David Cole is the Chairman of AutoHarvest (autoharvest.org), a web based tool to accelerate innovation in the auto industry. Dr. Cole is Chairman Emeritus of the Center for Automotive Research and a former Professor of Engineering at the University of Michigan where he taught courses related to the automotive field for over 25 years. He is a fellow of the Society of Automotive Engineers, Engineering Society of Detroit and Society of Manufacturing Engineers and was recently elected to the Automotive Hall of Fame.

To say we live in a world of exploding knowledge is a profound understatement. With the amazing set of research and discovery tools available today there is growing competency to provide innovative solutions to problems across the world. With this knowledge explosion and a rapidly expanding interest in entrepreneurship, we are witnessing the positive “perfect storm” foundation for significantly accelerated innovation.  This is happening across all sectors of knowledge from the physical sciences to the life sciences and is certainly applicable to manufactured goods and the processes used to create them. Many understand the application to product areas but the truth is that process areas are of equal importance.

In a very schematic way we can illustrate the innovation environment we are in today. As shown in Figure 1, the creation of new knowledge is increasing at an exponential rate while the application of this knowledge is expanding at a slower rate.

Innovation-Auto Industry pic 1Therefore the gap between what we know and our ability to apply it is growing rapidly creating a dramatic increase in the opportunity for innovation which is the application of this knowledge to our products and processes. Clearly in the auto industry as with other parts of our economy, the potential to gain competitive advantage or lose competitive advantage is increasing.

The recent trauma of the auto industry in America and to a major extent in the rest of the world has led to a rethinking of the business model with regard to innovation. In the middle years of the last century, innovation in the domestic auto industry was largely driven by the so-called original equipment auto manufactures typically referred to as the OEM’s. In fact less than 10% of the product technology used by the industry was attributable to auto suppliers. This was at a time when the domestic auto manufacturers had extremely large internal component supply operations. Today, for example, Chrysler, Ford and GM have spun off their captive supplier divisions and created independent supplier companies including Delphi, Visteon and American Axle. With the current domestic auto companies, often referred to now at the D3, nearly half or more of product innovation is attributable to external suppliers and this fraction is growing. This is also true for most of the world’s auto manufacturers. As part of this structural shift, GM and Ford have largely phased out their more basic research activities that were conducted under the auspices of the GM Research Laboratories and the Ford Scientific Laboratory. Advanced efforts today are now focused on the support of their various car and truck divisions. They have shifted from internal efforts to collaboration with government laboratories, universities and suppliers both within and outside of the auto industry.

Partnering and collaboration are becoming the norm. For example a few years ago, arch market place rivals GM and Ford, worked together to develop a six-speed automatic transmission. They saved 10’s of millions of dollars and nearly a year of time. This collaboration is continuing with a new series of advanced transmissions.

In general the pressures to conduct business differently and collaboratively are growing. We, indeed, are moving rapidly to a new business model. All organizations are faced with a combination of tough issues related to the development of new products and processes. There are insufficient time, talent, capital and natural resources for them to do everything themselves. For example the talent issues is a worldwide issue that is exacerbated by the exit of many “Baby Boomers” from the work force even as the auto companies are beginning to re-grow after the collapse of the market and numerous bankruptcies of a few years back. This issue, in fact, is a critical national issue facing all segments of our economy and other major economies in the world as well. Here In the United States we will be short 10 million skilled workers in 5 years and 30 million in 15 years due to the smaller follow-on generations to the Boomers. For example here in Michigan there are currently openings for nearly 3,000 CNC (computer and numerically controlled) machine operators and nationally there are openings for about 3.6 million skill based jobs that lack appropriately educated and skilled applicants. Even a job on the auto assembly line today requires someone with a 2 year Community College degree. At a recent Economic Summit hosted by Michigan’s Governor, Rick Snyder, the primary topic was talent for Michigan companies, or more appropriately the lack of talent. In fact the top area of need was for skilled trades and technicians followed by engineers with electro-mechanical skills.

As noted earlier the domestic automotive industry has gone through a phase of extreme distress, where they have been forced to cut research budgets and halt many long term innovation programs. This adds to the risk of losing valuable ground in a continually advancing global technology environment.  Many organizations have critical technology needs and long term research goals for which they lack both internal resources and expertise.   The automotive sector, from academic researchers to carmakers, has historically practiced research in silos, it has not created a network or method to robustly identify, assess and manage globally located opportunities for collaboration. All the while, this industry, both foreign and domestic, houses a vast quantity of intellectual property (IP) with applications in adjacent industries, all of which requires significant investment to develop and which now, in many cases, is being under-utilized. Industry leaders have realized they need to change tactics to remain competitive as well as to solve today’s needs for clean energy and safer, greener and connected vehicles

Consequently we are facing a very tough task. It is a time of opportunity but also of severe challenge. On all fronts across our economy we are being pressed to do More, Better and Faster. These challenges have led to the creation of a method to increase the effectiveness and efficiency of innovation through the use of a web-based tool that we call AutoHarvest. It is really a kind of Facebook or Linkedin for technology. Its purpose is to bring buyers, sellers, collaborators, inventors, researchers and investors together in a highly secure environment quickly at very low cost around given intellectual properties.

In the next section of this essay we will introduce AutoHarvest, the innovation accelerating tool we are developing.

 

 

We still need, very much, that factory floor

JP-pic 2Dr. John Psarouthakis, Executive Editor of www.BusinessThinker.com, Distinguished Visiting Fellow at the Institute of Advanced Studies in the Humanities, University of Edinburgh, Scotland, publisher of www.GavdosPress.com and Founder and former CEO, JP Industries, Inc., a Fortune 500 industrial corporation

After I launched JP Industries in the 1980s and was growing it into a major auto components firm, new acquaintances usually asked me how big the company was.  If I told them it was a half-a-billion-dollar company, they were likely to say:  “No, I mean how many people do you employ?”  That question no longer defines a company, and no one asks it anymore.  For sure no one asks that question about General Motors, except in wonderment at how America has changed since the 1950s. But neither does anyone use workforce size to define new non-manufacturing icons such as Amazon or Facebook.  Sales and profits determine the size of a company today.  Some politicians and pundits have a quick, cynical, simplistic explanation for that new dynamic: corporate greed.  They are wrong—wrong enough and populist enough to lead the gullible over the cliff we discussed earlier.

The nation’s formerly largest corporation, for example, did not have a history of pushing workers out the door to maximize profits.  The overly generous remuneration of the General Motors workforce, on the job and in retirement, was in fact one major cause of GM’s financial catastrophe.  Big government and big manufacturing both spent the last half of the 20th Century laying land mines beneath their own feet.  How can one quarrel with that description of entities that wind up with retiree costs dwarfing current payrolls?  It is complicated.  Demographics of an aging population, efficiencies that require fewer and fewer employees to accomplish the same work, global competition driving down profit margins, that same competition leading to better products that last longer . . . it is an intricate picture.  But unless one’s mind is mired in a utopian, socialist fantasy, the bottom line is quite simple:  compete or die.  You can’t make a bad product and sell it into a market of good products.  And you can’t sell a good product that costs twice as much as someone else’s equally good product.  This dynamic—a few outlier examples excepted, as in every endeavor under the sun—is not about greed.  It is about centuries-old market truths, which are becoming even truer.

An eerie parallel to the GM saga can be found at the bottom of the government and taxation food chain, where numerous municipalities around the country have been lining up to declare bankruptcy or de facto bankruptcy.  The only competition in the local government arena is with state and federal governments for tax dollars.  At this most labor-intensive level of government, however, “legacy issues” are the same in a bankrupt city as in the old smokestack industries.  Overly generous retirement and health-care benefits, padded payrolls, and slipshod fiscal management have left some cities struggling to pay retired workers even while current workers—including police officers—are being laid off.  As a footnote to that fact, here—and in numerous other paragraphs of this book—I could easily add an exclamation point that asks: “Why did a thousand headlines proclaim that ‘America Is Not Greece’?”  Are you kidding?  Show me a bankrupt American city and I will show you Greece without the Mediterranean.

In 1914, only 17 years before Brave New World was published, Henry Ford’s assembly line workers were rejecting oppressive, mind-numbing production work in astounding numbers.  Ford needed to hire and train more than three men if he wanted to find one who remained on the job at year’s end.  To solve this costly and counter-productive problem, Ford stunned the world by doubling workers’ wages to five dollars.  Ford’s new pay scale famously increased number of consumers able to afford a car, but this was a mere footnote to his strategy.  Ford’s motive was to solve a productivity problem while keeping his product competitive.  From a worker’s vantage point it was all about a 100 percent pay increase (plus the bonus of an eight-hour workday instead of nine).  From a business vantage point it was all about productivity (the eight-hour day meant Ford could operate three shifts a day, instead of two), getting those Model T’s out onto Woodward Avenue, not wasting time spent hiring and training workers, and solving an acute labor shortage.

The automakers applied that template far past its rightful expiration date, into an era when labor costs were allowed to exceed common sense and management muffed a latter 20th Century challenge from foreign manufacturers.  Almost 100 years passed from the $5 day until competition and technological realities and failure to live within their means brought the automotive American Three (formerly the Big Three) to their knees.  In the real world, the sun rises and sets, death and taxes are certainties, and any business that doesn’t compete will sooner or later—usually sooner—go bust.

During the manufacturing segment’s American Century zenith, the platitude said that when Detroit sneezes, America catches a cold.  That assertion might have been overused, but it was entirely true.  Detroit was America’s largest employer.  Its indirect economic impact defied calculation.  The steel industry, parts manufacturers, electronics and glass companies, road builders, garage mechanics, salesmen—even a huge part of the advertising and newspaper and broadcasting businesses—stayed healthy only if Detroit stayed healthy.   That was not just a sneeze you heard at the dawn of the 21st Century.  The bigger they are, the harder they fall.

Detroit’s car companies, made vulnerable by complacency and after staggering for several decades, nearly went down for the count.  Those humiliating few weeks on the brink might be the place to mark the true beginning of the 21st Century.  Historians could find few bookends more aptly symbolic than the $5 Day on one end and The Bailout on the other.  All four 21st Century Benchmarks factored into the nearest bookend—global competition, technological advances (the first widespread, heavy-duty, real-world use of the word “robot” occurred in the car industry), the need for education reform (no Henry Ford waits at today’s factory door to hire and train, at double pay, workers straight off the farm or straight off the boat), and a synergistic need for new thinking in our manufacturing segment (for direct job creation, of course; but equally important as a nearby laboratory to continue our status as an exporter of innovation).  It all added up to that very 21st Century matter of Vector One companies becoming a source of unemployment rather than a source of new jobs.

Perhaps no image so perfectly signaled the futility of resistance to the coming new century as did those photos of angry American autoworkers taking sledgehammers to Japanese-made cars, even as the Japanese were moving to build cars in America (competitive cost and productivity realities, you know).  The days of bludgeoned Toyotas are past, but more sophisticated (and more dangerous) resistance to the new era remains.  We need to do more than merely accept that the calendar has turned; in a single grasp, we need to confront the new century and embrace it.

One can forgive the politicians and the pundits and the unemployed themselves for chanting “Jobs, jobs, jobs!”  That is after all a noble and very American chant, quite different than “Handouts, handouts, handouts!”  The trick will be to move the dialogue (and the chants) away from instant (and obsolete) jobs, while avoiding surrender to the handout mentality.  Instead, we need to chant for a new job-creating environment and a new paradigm for producing qualified job candidates.  There was a time when it might have been valid in a recession to expect jobs could materialize from a tweaked tax rate here, a money-supply adjustment there, or—mostly, like a fresh breeze inevitably closes out a heat wave—an “uptick in the business cycle.”  That always happened sooner or later after Detroit caught a cold.  Today’s challenge is not cyclical.  It is fundamental and technological.  No one would have accomplished much by standing in a 1912 cornfield chanting: “Farm jobs, farm jobs, farm jobs!”

The farm-to-factory social and technological upheaval, though massive, was a small reflection of where we stand today.  No one has constructed an oven the size of Kansas in which to bake a much, much larger Mom’s apple pie.  If we are smart, we’ll make manufacturing the core—and “core” is precisely the right, if surprising, word—of how we meet and mold the future.  We can make the American manufacturing sector our prime route toward “Jobs, jobs, jobs!” once again . . . not as directly as in the past, not in any 20th Century way, but nonetheless as a vital driver of prosperity for all.  Millions of lunch buckets won’t be carried into the factories of the future.  The livelihood of most Americans, however, will depend on the health of American manufacturing.

As we talk about bringing our manufacturing sector into a new era, we need to keep a couple things in mind about this powerhouse that drove the American Century.  More than 70 years have passed since FDR, a year before Pearl Harbor, dubbed our mills and factories “The Arsenal of Democracy.”  It has been a long time since you heard commonly expressed awe about our “industrial might.”  The numbers, however, remain mighty.

First, the service sector (and especially computer-related technology) has radiated all the workplace sex appeal for a generation or two, but guess what?  We remain the world’s largest manufacturer.  In 2011 we produced a fifth of the entire world’s manufacturing output.  If one must pick oneself up after being knocked down, that is the best possible floor to start from.

Second, it is true that manufacturing accounted for 31 percent of U.S. non-farm employment in 1950 and that 60 years later that percentage had dipped below 10 percent, but guess what?  Almost 12 million Americans work in today’s manufacturing sector, a number that posted modest gains in 2010 and again in 2011—the first years that had seen an increase since 1997.

Third, 12 million jobs is a lot of jobs, no matter what percentage they might be of our total workforce.  Despite its troubles, U.S. manufacturing obviously has not been driven into antique status by an inability to compete.  It is nowhere near extinction.  It has so many assets, in physical plant and productivity and business culture, that if we did everything wrong and stayed on the road to government-centric and dwindling world importance, we would still be making things.  Not enough things.  Not the right things.  Our people would suffer from all that dwindling.  But we would remain on the list of manufacturing countries.  Take just one-half of our current manufacturing might and set it down in any other leading developed country and you would be looking at the new global superpower.

In other words, American manufacturing has big challenges today, and faces bigger challenges tomorrow, but is nowhere near being a disaster zone.  Viewed as a single unit in a mind exercise, one could analyze the U.S. manufacturing sector as an underperforming company—one with an upside and a downside the likes of which have never been seen in world history.

The downside would be to allow a vibrant, highly productive, innovative conglomerate atrophy quickly into mediocrity with dangerous consequences for all Americans.  The upside would be to refocus the world’s largest, most important “company” in midstride, nip its foreseeable problems in the bud, retool (as all manufacturers do), and soar to new heights as the winner and still champion of a larger, well . . . global pie.  The bad news is that American manufacturing has reached a decisive crossroads.  The good news is that the proper path to choose is obvious.  The further bad news is that American society (meaning all levels of government and the will of the people) must commit to the live-or-die effort (see “infrastructure,” see “education”).  The further good news is this manufacturing rebirth can be achieved, if we somehow summon that shared resolve—which seems to be the key to success when one looks at these 21st Century survival issues from any direction.

No one could estimate with acceptable accuracy how many Americans would be willing (or fiscally able) to report to work at the wage rates foreign suppliers pay offshore workers to produce countless low-value products.  My best guess is almost none would sign up.  Americans already turn their back on jobs paying wages that, although low by our standards, are much higher than millions of manufacturing jobs around the world.  If someone in Asia produces wood screws that could be made here by workers earning half the U.S. minimum wage—is that a question worth asking?  Should we even bother bemoaning the loss of such jobs?  Of course not.

Nor could anyone could estimate with acceptable accuracy the number of American manufacturing jobs that have been lost as a direct result of companies moving overseas, or as a direct result of imported goods taking market share from domestic product, or as a direct result of domestic regulatory and taxation issues, or as a direct result of new efficiencies.  Technological advances would have eliminated a certain number of jobs from the factory floor even if no factory existed anywhere in the world except the lower 48 states.  That fact is among the reasons it’s impossible to sort out reasons jobs are exported, let alone to add up accurate numbers.

Let’s imagine a hypothetical small-town Midwest plant where 2,000 employees manufacture dishwashers.  Let’s say that one sad morning the entire operation disappears to Mexico, where workers are paid a small fraction of Midwestern wages.  The reason for the exodus appears cut-and-dried: pay rates.  But there are also regulatory issues, including some that do not involve worker safety or sensible stewardship of natural resources.  There are tax issues (the dishwasher company has been marginally profitable, at best, for 15 years, but in each of those years it has paid 30 percent of the town’s school system budget, bought all its police cars, and paid a far larger share of water and sewage costs than pro rata accounting would demand).  The plant’s union has accepted a pay freeze in several contract negotiations—but refuses to budge on antiquated work rules (antiquated, of course, by new technology), and actively nurtures workforce resentment against management.  While the plant’s profitability slouched toward ancient history, two of its major suppliers outsourced key parts to . . . Mexico.  For these and other reasons—bottom line being compete or die—there is no way this plant could stay in the Midwestern town where it had been an icon for many, many years.

Keeping in mind that technological advances are irreversible, and that a light breeze of new technology can produce gale-force change in a given market, “tech” clearly is shorthand for both the problems and the solutions we are discussing.  Technology’s long-term impact upon the job market, in fact, dwarfs all the headline-grabbing events that first created a new meaning for an adjective (offshore), then a brand-new verb: “to offshore, as in ‘Ajax offshored its parts department.”

Technological advances even played a major role in the loss of our mythical dishwasher factory to Mexico, though that might not be apparent.  Communications technology and transportation technology, for example, today allow a product to be assembled and shipped in containers from the farthest village on the planet.  A warehouse supervisor in Brooklyn (or anywhere else) can tell you in an instant the exact location of a particular unit still in its crate—the kind of tracking that not many years ago would have required time and effort even if that particular dishwasher were sitting in the warehouse 30 yards from the supervisor’s desk.  Inventory management, the parts pipeline, quality control—a very long list of chores have been simplified and improved by technology that already has begun to seem old, and which makes off-shoring a competitive solution in situations where it used to be impossible.

Meanwhile, dishwashers—and numerous other home appliances—arrived on the consumer scene to acclaim befitting futuristic technological marvels.  But one by one, as their technology became commonplace (as did their mass manufacture), these appliances morphed into mere manufactured commodities.  That is, unless they are built by a truly inept company, all models in the same price range are essentially the same in construction and quality no matter who builds them.  I would argue—and have so argued—that even today’s automobile, the mass-marketed models at least, have become manufactured commodities.  If one buys any major carmaker’s best-selling mid-sized sedan with similar amenities, one can expect to get a good product that will run well, last a long time—and carry the same number of people, at the same speed, in the same comfort, with approximately the same gas mileage and safety as any other best-selling mid-sized sedan.  You will of course quarrel with that assertion and defend your favorite brand, for various idiosyncratic reasons.  In some subjective ways you may be right . . . just a little bit.  But a well-constructed car of a particular class is a well-constructed car of a particular class.  Much like, say, dishwashers of a particular size and class.

Any of these durable goods products is infinitely more sophisticated and differentiated than a generic bushel of wheat or a silver ingot, for sure.  A side by side refrigerator is a manufactured commodity, not a raw product.  But the days when Frigidaire was synonymous with refrigerator (or Kodak synonymous with camera) are long gone.  The things that most endear a particular automotive nameplate to buyers these days are cost and service—two things that cannot be manufactured into a product.  The cost factor is decided in the engineering and design departments before manufacture begins.  Superlative service is something the customer receives after the product has been designed, manufactured, shipped, and sold.  Absolutely nothing about these two crucial factors has a thing to do with whether the product is made in Illinois or the other side of the world.

So it’s a wide range of manufacturing that has been, or threatens to be, shoved offshore by competitive forces.  Some products—many products—offer no reason whatsoever for trying to keep their manufacture in the U.S.  No one here wants to work making, say, Polynesian cocktail umbrellas at 25 cents an hour.  We lose no technological edge by letting someone else, somewhere else, do that work.  Goodbye, Mai Tai swizzle stick manufacturing sector.  Gone for good.  That’s easy (and intentionally simplistic).  But what about those dishwashing machines?  What about, say, the American furniture and textile industries, which have seen historic local economic bases pack up and leave northern locales, relocate in the southern U.S., then move yet again, this time offshore?  We’ll leave parts of those valid questions to be answered in later discussion of globalization.  Here, let’s stipulate three things—irreversible change is irreversible, free markets are not merely a good thing but the only way to grow that economic pie, and “compete or die” is an absolute.  If we honestly acknowledge those three things (and we have no other choice), then any forward-looking discussion about 21st Century manufacturing—painful as it may be for workers who made those dishwashers and textiles and furniture—is not at all difficult to outline.

First, the profit centers in manufacturing (and therefore the best and best-paying jobs) involve deploying the latest technology to produce value-added goods.  You can use dayglow paint and the best wood available in the Far East, but you simply are never going to add any value to those cocktail umbrellas.  They are what they are, toothpicks and paper, a very bottom-tier commodity.  Building a contemporary mid-sized automobile, on the other hand, is not a matter of dropping an engine on a chassis and adding some fenders, which more or less is what happened on the Model T’s horseless carriage assembly line.  Today’s car is a manufactured commodity, but it also is a mobile technology center of magnificent scope—loaded with on-board computers and high-precision mechanical components, engineered for safety and reliability that would stun those who designed any of America’s classic cars.  Making cars is one kind of manufacturing we want to keep in the United States.  Fundamental to understanding 21st Century manufacturing, however, remember that it takes fewer workers to assemble one of these modern marvels than it took to assemble a Model T.  No doubt it will take even fewer workers in the future than it does now—as I discussed in that old Grand Rapids speech.

Second, any manufacturing that uses high levels of new technology is the kind of manufacturing we want to keep on these shores.  That’s true even if its labor force is small, even if its direct contribution to GDP is so tiny as to not show up on economic radar.  Why do we care about such a company?  A tiny, technology-intensive company surely means nothing to the economy in the way a car manufacturer’s payroll does.  Absolutely true; a GM job roster is a precious thing to be treasured, even if it is but a shadow of its old self and even as it shrinks because of new efficiencies.  But it isn’t workforce size that makes the car companies—plus any companies that demand new technology but amount to mere blips in the economy, plus all other technology-consuming companies of any intermediary size—the core of our 21st Century economic paradigm.  Almost all these companies, just like 19th or 20th Century companies, will continue to demand varying degrees of raw materials and finished parts, require vendors of every type, and hire their share of accountants and sales reps, and plant maintenance people—every job description imaginable.  What makes these companies uniquely vital to the 21st Century, though, is not their direct labor forces, but all that technology consumption.  That’s because . . .

Third, technology—rather than the durable goods our manufacturers produce—could fairly be viewed our most important product in the 21st Century.  It’s a close-knit synergy.  For example:

 

  • Technology, as noted, fuels the most prosperous manufacturing industries, which are excellent creators of new wealth, the lifeblood of any vibrant, growing, free-market economy.

 

  • It logically follows—and experience usually supports the logic—that high-tech manufacturing wants its best sources of new technology to be located nearby.  A sophisticated manufacturing facility that winds up thousands of miles from its laboratory will, if possible, tend to move the lab near its manufacturing facilities.  Similarly, an industry that has its labs and all the best related outside intellectual support based in the United States has, obviously, a good reason to “stay home.”

 

  • New technology derives from both private and public research, sometimes jointly and sometimes singly, but in either case demanding a world-class university system.

 

  • The United States currently boasts the foremost graduate schools on the planet, as evidenced by the world sending so many of its best and brightest here for an American education.  One could compile a long manifest of reasons we should sustain this technological/educational leadership.  For reasons apparent within this book’s context, we must maintain that leadership.

 

  • The concept of technology as a “product” is not really a figurative thing.  Technology is intellectual property.  It makes things work.  Once a product’s ingredients advance beyond raw materials and sweat and toil, it is technology that adds value to that product.  The right technology in the right application is a profitable thing.  Companies buy and sell technology every day.  Occasionally a nefarious company (more often a nation) will steal technology, or will produce a quasi-legal clone of a technological process.  Technology is real, as solid as the chair you are sitting in.

 

  • A new piece of technology—in its pure conceptual form, or as a plan for application in manufacturing, or as a completed high-tech manufactured product . . . or in the nascent form of a new Ph.D.’s brainpower—will be our greatest 21st Century export.  Again, it must be thus, or this is most definitely not going to be a great century for the U.S.

 

That is the “smart manufacturing” component of our four Benchmarks.  We must manufacture value-added products that consume new technology.  To do that we must create the new technology our manufacturing sector needs.  Then we need to train, endlessly, a manufacturing workforce that can get the job done.  And along the way we need to make smart choices about plugging this new “manufacturing might” into global markets.  It’s a spectacular synergy.  But I think you can see why even though it’s “all about technology,” it’s also all about a new 21st Century manufacturing sector.

“Jobs, jobs, jobs!”?  Yes indeed.  But not in any 20th Century form.  Before too long, in fact, millions of jobs will exist that none of us today can describe, anymore than Columbus could describe, accurately, where his little ships were headed.  That same unpredictability could be said of entire as-yet unborn industries.  Who can predict the precise layout of a high-tech manufacturing matrix derived from new technology several generations into our future, when we don’t yet have a handle on new technology’s impact this afternoon?  This is not a time for planning instant obsolescence with short-sighted, laborious, bureaucratic, faux precision.  The proper path is obvious, but is not marked by GPS coordinates.  It is indeed, as those old guys said on the shop floor decades ago, “all about the United States continuing to make things.”  Our universities and those free-market manufacturers who perform best can get us to our destination, but only if the politicians—and a lack of public will—don’t mess things up.

See also the Book “The Technology Imperative: What Jobs! Jobs! Jobs! Really Means in the 21st Century”, Gavdos Press, 2012. (www.gavdospress.com)