Is the US Economy Doomed to Stagnation?
I have listened to a lot of conversations about how we are worse off than our parents, how the United State’s Economy is doomed, and how United State’s position as a World Power is doomed. This month I had more conversations than usual about the Great Stagnation.
It is easy to get discouraged about the Great Stagnation. Is the sky falling? It might be, how would I know? Also, after a hard day it is attractive to think that the entire system is broke and we are all doomed to stagnation
However, In the back of my mind I knew things couldn’t be stagnating. Infact, things are changing faster than ever. Confusion, ambiguity, fear and uncertainty are not the result of stagnation. They are emotions caused by rapid growth and new paradigms.
We have failed to realize that we now live in a world that looks like a 1970’s Science Fiction Dystopia. Some people take advantage of the changes, others choose to ignore the change. The result is that we feel anxious, but are not sure why.
We have become numb to progress. Progress is seen as a personal style choice, when it is an economic choice. Failing to see that adopting technology and learning new ways of thinking are economic choices, we are left to blame the government, big business or something else.
People are willing to work hard, but they don’t want to change. They keep doubling down on old paradigms, such as get a Bachelor’s degree so that you can be guaranteed a good full-time job. We struggle to see that our problems are because of our failure to embrace and adapt to change.
Today we do things that 40 years ago were science fiction. Today they are annoying, inconvenient or scary.
- We talk with the majority of our friends over the Internet. We are friends with people we have never met in person.
- We carry video phones in our pockets.
- We carry external brains in our pockets that have access to all the worlds knowledge.
- Forget about color television kids expect the immersive entertainment experiences of 3D movies and television.
- We manipulate our bodies in ways that make us appear super human using supplements, prosthetics, protein shakes, Adderall, RedBull, etc.
- People use data to predict the future.
- We are surrounded by cameras and sensors that track out movements.
- Drones and robots replace people in battle, surveillance and manufacturing.
- We have electric cars, super cars, renewable energy, commercial space flight.
- People are able to build multi-million dollar businesses run by less than 30 people.
The problem isn’t stagnation or the loss of opportunity. The problem is that we have created new paradigms, that go beyond the “Information Revolution”, and we lack the structures to think about these new paradigms. We are waiting for new cultural and social rules, new parenting and educational standards, new laws and tax systems. We are going to have to wait a long time, because the gap is growing between technological change and societies capacity.
We have a culture that says it is okay if you don’t want to be a “technology person” or a “geek”. The problem is that is like saying I am not a person that likes to talk, or listen, or read. Life is pretty difficult for the person that is capable of learning/doing, but is unwilling.
It is an entitlement attitude to think that change is optional. The problems it that the people who are creating new technologies and pushing the adoption of new technologies, are not the people setting government policy, educational standards or even culture.
Technologists, Inventors and Entrepreneurs expect people to change. While “normal” people think they have the right not to change. They are entitled to tradition. They refuse to adopt progress, because they are not a “technology/math/computer person”. Sometimes they even actively get in the way of progress.
The rate of change and the gap between technology change and social change will continue to grow. This is because the economics of innovation are changing. The barriers and costs to create change continue to fall. It is becoming easier and easier to build new things. You can now disrupt the world on a shoestring budget. This isn’t’ just because material costs are falling, but labor costs are falling. People are more willing than ever to work at a startup or on a revolutionary idea. Entreprenuers, change agents, are able to recruit great people to work on their projects either full-time or at night. Even more surprisingly people are working on their hobbies. They are independents that are driving this revolution. The ability to be independent is growing, and will continue to grow. They problem is that the speed of change continues to increase, and societies ability adjust stays the constant. The anxiety is going to continue to grow exponentially.