Dr. John Psarouthakis, Executive Editor, www.BusinessThinker.com and former founder and CEO of JPIndustries, Inc., a Fortune 500 industrial group.
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The preface in my book “Technology Imperative: What Jobs, Jobs, Jobs Really Means in the 21st Century”
My editor and I sat over coffee discussing several possible book projects. If pressed for a working title that day, I might have tried to jam in as much content as possible to describe the concept—something like Technology, Unemployment, Globalization and What America Must Do to Regain Prosperity, Bring Its Economy Back to Life, and Survive in the New Century. That mouthful sums up the plot (if a non-fiction commentary can be described as having a plot) I had in mind.
In truth, every time I began to explain it I became distracted by the subplot That is, these “must do” priorities for confronting and conquering an impending national crisis have failed to capture the public imagination despite dire consequences if we fail. Our politicians seem not to understand what is happening. Some ignore the clear facts, while others bark and circle like sheep dogs herding the populace toward the worst possible outcome. The daily mainstream news report has done little to help. I thought I was conveying frustration as I discussed these things, but my editor saw more and offered his own brief working title. “For the moment,” he said, “I am going to call this your ‘Angry Book’.”
My very long career bridging several disciplines included many successes along with the usual number of learning experiences. None of the successes resulted from using anger as a communications tool. Neither resentment nor rage ever solved a physics problem or closed a good business deal. I don’t wish to see this book hijacked by my own anger.
My editor, however, was spot-on. I am angry about what has happened to this country, especially in recent decades, since I arrived here many years ago. I am angry about our continuing descent into dysfunctional government, and—to make it worse—more government. Our definitive 21st Century challenge is apolitical, but it is being politicized—even to the extent of disparaging and eroding the free-market system that brought us the very prosperity we seek to preserve. My goal here is to point out, directly and forcefully, a challenge we must meet and conquer . . . and to define, in the face of widespread misunderstanding, the fundamentals of that challenge . . . and to do whatever I can to help generate a sorely needed national conversation.
Our society—our people and our government and our economy—must grasp these issues and respond if we are to sustain, in this century, anything resembling America’s achievements and well-being in the previous century.
Outlining the very steep risk / reward potentials of the new era yields a list of the very arenas in which I’ve pursued my life and career—science, technology, business conducted across geopolitical borders, post-smokestack manufacturing, educational reform.
It didn’t take me long to think: “If a good book idea means a good match of author and subject matter, here we go! Let’s write the first page!”
Not that I am the only person with this background and these interests; but public discourse these days suggests that every voice pointing out the true impact of technology on our society is a voice that needs to speak up.
Besides, I have one new idea to offer in the problem-solving department. And in the end I hope to provoke thought about an inevitable future society that will be so different from the 20th Century as to resemble a “Star Trek” destination.
The key word is “inevitable.” I believe younger readers will live in that futuristic society, or very nearby.
I have harbored, for many years, serious apprehension and unease about the United States being so very, very slow in addressing public and private policy initiatives demanded by new technology and a global economy.
Like many—probably including you—I have long realized how few visionaries we have been sending to Washington as members of elected or bureaucratic institutions, and how these institutions meanwhile have come to demonstrate less and less vision than the sum of their parts.
I knew the issues I wished to write about had failed to gain meaningful traction among policymakers and legislators and mass media.
I knew trying to help make these issues resonate was important, because the American economy must prove its mettle in brand-new ways or we will sink into this new century’s history rather than lead and prosper.
I understood that we must board this bus now, if not sooner. But it was mere urgency, not anger, fueling my desire to write a little book drawing from what I learned in my life and career to help move the process off square one.
The anger came when I began thinking about how to begin this book. That’s when I fully appreciated the stifling role played by something most of us were already angry about. Let’s call it “old business.”
Washington has steadfastly refused to deal with three massive pieces of old business: its indebtedness, its monumental pile of unfunded promises via entitlement programs, and its occasionally amusing but mostly tragic and crippling ideological gridlock.
Each of those items enormously impacts every American. Together these items add up to a climate in which nothing important will be done—nothing can be done—about our pressing 21st Century needs.
Those needs, meanwhile, must be quickly and effectively addressed or the United States to which we have become accustomed is doomed. That is one grim equation. It is enough to make me—and I assume you—wake up not merely frustrated but white-hot angry. Those of us who are trying to look forward simply cannot do so.
Washington must get out of the 20th Century before it can enter the 21st Century, and none of us can get there until Washington gets there.
Writing even a chapter about politics and politicians was the very last thing on my mind when I first conceived writing about the impact of technology and economic globalization on all of America’s tomorrows. But our inability to get from here to there requires its own chapter, angry as it may be, and we’ll begin there.
I did not, of course, need to write this book to realize the United States has a debt crisis.
Nor did I learn only recently that Washington is the only place on earth where unsustainable promises can be propped up for generations by nothing more than hot air and crossed fingers.
Nor has it taken me years to recognize ideological warfare masquerading as representative government. Preparing this manuscript was something of an epiphany nonetheless, like driving a motorcycle 100 m.p.h. within six inches of the Grand Canyon rim.
Similarly, being eager to weigh in with a few observations on vital 21st Century issues, but coming face to face with the fact that no such observations matter until Washington takes care of the 20th Century’s old business, strikes me as a compelling epiphany.
It is indescribably frustrating to realize we face so much peril because of ideological intransigence. The leaders of our representative democracy have the power to turn a very difficult situation into something merely difficult. That’s only fair, as they are the ones who made it hopeless in the first place.
Think of the above and vote according to your conscious in the coming mid-term election