Losing Jobs to China

I follow two blogs daily- Fred Wilson, a venture capitalist, and Joanne Wilson, an angel investor.  They're both super astute observers of the economy, entrepreneurship, politics and culture.  Fred wrote another great post this morning about the conversation around losing jobs to China, that we (but mostly Americans right now) are bemoaning the loss of manufacturing jobs to China, when automation will mean that they will eventually lose their jobs anyway, so why can't politicians help constituents see the bigger picture instead of stoking their fears?

We are now well into a transition from an industrial economy to an information economy. It seems to me that part of that transition was the move of industrial jobs to lower and lower cost regions in an ongoing march to reduce costs. But that march may end with massive automation and very little labor in the manufacturing process. That means that these low cost regions that “stole our jobs” will also lose these jobs eventually.

The US and a number of other countries around the world are building new information based economies. That is the long term winning strategy.

So while we can critique our leaders (business and political) for giving up on the manufacturing sector a bit too early, I think the US has largely played this game correctly and will be much better off than the parts of the world that have taken the low cost manufacturing jobs from us.

The discussion amongst Fred's readersin the comment section is centered on the future of jobs in America, and given my limited knowledge of stats in this area, I'll just stick to what I know.  Computers and machines can't create a field of presence between two people, and they can't come to presence like we can.  Because they remember the crash of 2008,  Millennials are spending more money on experiences than things; they want to be at live events, creating memories and bonding with their friends rather than accumulating things.  They remember seeing that houses and things can be re-possessed, and they don't want that happening to them.  Their spending patterns will indicate where the jobs will be in the coming years.

Enneagram teacher extraordinaire George Gurdjieff called us machines- and the more we meditate and become self-aware, the more we see how true it is that we operate on automatic.  Non-meditators guffaw when you say something like that, but when you start the self-observation practice, you eventually start to see tiny, short glimpses of our automatic nature.  So if you haven't done a lot of meditation or self-observation, you can't compete very well against a machine.  But... self-observation leads to self-leadership and with leadership skills, you can create a field with others... or without having to go into too much depth about what that means... you can create a meaningful experience for others.  An experience of presence.

That said, what kinds of jobs will be left for us?  I pay some attention to the modelling world and models have experienced a tremendous shift as well- consumers don't just want to see their beautiful bodies and faces- they want to know about their consumer choices, what they do in their time off, where they vacation, how they make hummus... The modelling industry isn't about just showing up for a photo shoot and posing with a brand's clothing.  Increasingly, models' personal lives are more well-known to us, more accessible, and they are sharing more with their followers.  They have youtube channels, they share their recipes and pictures of their pets with their Instagram followers, they're going back to school and the fact that we know about that, care about it, and are following in their footsteps means we care about the lifestyle behind their brand.   So if we take that same angle to business, going into business means creating a branded experience.  Customers don't just want a product thrown at them- they want the look, the attitude, the political statement, the integrated lifestyle of what the brand represents- the meaning behind it is just as important- or more important than its quality.  If you're going to create an integrated lifestyle behind a brand, you're going to need a capacity for self-reflection.  

Those are just some very scattered thoughts this morning.  I do believe that the disembodiment that's been happening since the dawning of computers has led us to find different ways of being around .... more... bodies.  The new sharing economy is a manifestation of that- Uber and Airbnb for example.  Those who have the self-knowledge and presence of mind to "create a field" for others as we say in meditation circles, or "create an experience", as they say in marketing, will win over robots.