Where the Jobs Are – Computers Reshaping Global Job Market

Go Lean Commentary

The legend of John Henry [a] illustrated the struggle of man versus machine.

Man lost!

Was that story just an allegory or an anecdote of an actual person and actual events? While the setting of the story is true, the construction of the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway in the 1870s (shortly after the US Civil War), the rest of the account may be mere fiction and exaggeration. But the battle of man versus machine continues even today; and man continues to lose.

The below news article asserts that the next round of new jobs are to be found in the acceptance of that defeat, man conceding to the machine.

This point aligns with the book Go Lean…Caribbean which calls for the elevation of Caribbean economics. The book asserts that the Caribbean region has been losing the battle of globalization and technology. The consequences of our defeat is the sacrifice of our most precious treasure, our people. The assessment of all 30 Caribbean member-states is that every community has lost human capital to emigration. Some communities, like Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands have suffered with an abandonment rate of more than 50% and others have had no choice but to stand on the sideline and watch as more than 70% of college-educated citizens flee their homelands for foreign shores.

There are both “push and pull” factors as to why these ones leave. But the destination countries, North America and Western Europe, may not be such ideal alternatives. These communities have also been suffering from agents-of-change in the modern world and losing badly in the struggle of man-versus-machine, the industrial adoption of automation, and  the corporate assimilation of internet & communication technologies.

Everything has changed…everywhere! It is what it is! The poor is expanding, the middle class is shrinking, and the rich, the One Percent is growing in affluence, influence and power.

The Go Lean book therefore posits that there is a need to re-focus, re-boot, and optimize the engines of commerce so as to make the Caribbean a better place to live, work and play. Considering this article here, depicting that there is the opportunity to create jobs:

Title: Computers reshaping global job market, for better and worse
By: Ann Saphir (Editing by Lisa Shumaker)

CU Blog - Where the Jobs Are - Computers reshaping global job martket - Photo 2(Reuters) – Automation and increasingly sophisticated computers have boosted demand for both highly educated and low-skilled workers around the globe, while eroding demand for middle-skilled jobs, according to research to be presented to global central bankers on Friday.

But only the highly educated workers are benefiting through higher wages, wrote MIT professor David Autor in the paper prepared for a central banking conference in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Middle- and lower-skilled workers are seeing their wages decline.

That is in part because as middle-skilled jobs dry up, those workers are more likely to seek lower-skilled jobs, boosting the pool of available labor and putting downward pressure on wages.

“(W)hile computerization has strongly contributed to employment polarization, we would not generally expect these employment changes to culminate in wage polarization except in tight labor markets,” Autor wrote.

Any long-term strategy to take advantage of advances in computers should rely heavily on investments in human capital to produce “skills that are complemented rather than substituted by technology,” he said.

Recounting the long history of laborers vilifying technological advances, Autor argues that most such narratives underestimate the fact that computers often complement rather than replace the jobs of higher-skilled workers.

People with skills that are easily replaced by machines, such as 19th-century textile workers, do lose their jobs.

In recent years computer engineers have pushed computers farther into territory formerly considered to be human-only, like driving a car.

Still, computer-driven job polarization has a natural limit, Autor argues. For some jobs, such as plumbers or medical technicians who take blood samples, routine tasks are too intertwined with those requiring interpersonal and other human skills to be easily replaced.

“I expect that a significant stratum of middle skill, non-college jobs combining specific vocational skills with foundational middle skills – literacy, numeracy, adaptability, problem-solving and common sense – will persist in coming decades,” Autor wrote.

Autor, who has been studying technology and its impact on jobs since before the dot-com bubble burst, notes that some economists have pointed to the weak U.S. labor market since the 2000s as evidence of the adverse impact of computerization.

Such modern-day Luddites are mistaken, he suggested. U.S. investment in computers, which had been increasing strongly, dropped just as labor demand also fell, exactly the opposite of what ought to happen if technology is replacing labor.

More likely, he said, globalization is to blame, hurting demand for domestic labor and, like technology, helping to reshape the labor landscape. While in the long run both globalization and technology should in theory benefit the economy, he wrote, their effects are “frequently slow, costly, and disruptive.”

The book Go Lean… Caribbean, serves as a roadmap for the introduction and implementation of the technocratic Caribbean Union Trade Federation (CU) with the charter to facilitate jobs in the region. The book posits that ICT (Internet & Communications Technology) can be a great equalizer for the Caribbean to better compete with the rest of the world, relating the experiences of Japan – the #3 global economy – who have competed successfully with great strategies and technocratic execution despite being a small country of only 120+ million people. This modeling of Japan, and other successful communities, aligns with the CU charter; as defined by these 3 prime directives:

  • Optimization of economic engines in order to grow the regional economy to $800 Billion and create 2.2 million new jobs.
  • Establishment of a security apparatus to protect the resultant economic.
  • Improve Caribbean governance to support these engines.

Early in the Go Lean book, the responsibility to create jobs was identified as an important function for the CU with these pronouncements in the Declaration of Interdependence (Pages 14):

xxvi.  Whereas the Caribbean region must have new jobs to empower the engines of the economy and create the income sources for prosperity, and encourage the next generation to forge their dreams right at home, the Federation must therefore foster the development of new industries, like that of ship-building, automobile manufacturing, prefabricated housing, frozen foods, pipelines, call centers, and the prison industrial complex. In addition, the Federation must invigorate the enterprises related to existing industries tourism, fisheries and lotteries – impacting the region with more jobs.

xxvii. Whereas the region has endured a spectator status during the Industrial Revolution, we cannot stand on the sidelines of this new economy, the Information Revolution. Rather, the Federation must embrace all the tenets of Internet Communications Technology (ICT) to serve as an equalizing element in competition with the rest of the world. The Federation must bridge the digital divide and promote the community ethos that research/development is valuable and must be promoted and incentivized for adoption.

xxviii. Whereas intellectual property can easily traverse national borders, the rights and privileges of intellectual property must be respected at home and abroad. The Federation must install protections to ensure that no abuse of these rights go with impunity, and to ensure that foreign authorities enforce the rights of the intellectual property registered in our region.

xxx.  Whereas the effects of globalization can be felt in every aspect of Caribbean life, from the acquisition of food and clothing, to the ubiquity of ICT, the region cannot only consume, it is imperative that our lands also produce and add to the international community, even if doing so requires some sacrifice and subsidy.

According to the foregoing article, computers are reshaping the global job market, for better and worse. The Go Lean book, and previous blog/commentaries, detailed the principle of job multipliers, how certain industries are better than others for generating multiple indirect jobs down the line for each direct job on a company’s payroll. Industries relating to STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics/Medicine) fields have demonstrated high job-multiplier rates of 3.0 to 4.1 factors (Page 260).

The Go Lean… Caribbean book details the creation of 2.2 million new jobs for the Caribbean region, many embracing ICT skill-sets. How? By adoption of certain community ethos, plus the executions of key strategies, tactics, implementations and advocacies. The following is a sample from the book:

Assessment – Puerto Rico – The Greece of the Caribbean Page 18
Community Ethos – Deferred Gratification Page 21
Community Ethos – Economic Principle – Economic Systems Influence Choices & Incentives Page 21
Community Ethos – Economic Principle – Voluntary Trade Creates Wealth Page 21
Community Ethos – Consequences of Choices Lie in the Future Page 21
Community Ethos – Job Multiplier Page 22
Community Ethos – Anti-Bullying and Mitigation Page 23
Community Ethos – Lean Operations Page 24
Community Ethos – Return on Investments Page 24
Community Ethos – Ways to Impact the Future Page 26
Community Ethos – Ways to Foster Genius Page 27
Community Ethos – Ways to Help Entrepreneurship Page 28
Community Ethos – Ways to Promote Intellectual Property Page 29
Community Ethos – Ways to Impact Research & Development Page 30
Community Ethos – Ways to Bridge the Digital Divide Page 31
Strategy – Mission – Education Without Further Brain Drain Page 46
Strategy – Agents of Change – Technology Page 57
Strategy – Agents of Change – Globalization Page 57
Tactical – Fostering a Technocracy Page 64
Tactical – Tactics to Forge an $800 Billion Economy – Japanese Model Page 69
Tactical – Tactics to Forge an $800 Billion Economy – High Multiplier Industries Page 70
Tactical – Separation of Powers – Commerce Department – Patents & Copyrights Page 78
Implementation – Ways to Pay for Change Page 101
Implementation – Trends in Implementing Data Centers Page 106
Implementation – Ways to Deliver Page 109
Implementation – Ways to Impact ICT and Social Media Page 111
Planning – Ways to Improve Trade Page 128
Advocacy – Ways to Grow the Economy Page 151
Advocacy – Ways to Create Jobs Page 152
Advocacy – Ways to Improve Education Page 159
Advocacy – Ways to Impact Labor Markets and Unions Page 164
Advocacy – Ways to Foster Empowering Immigration – STEM Resources Page 174
Advocacy – Ways to Foster Technology Page 197
Advocacy – Ways to Foster e-Commerce Page 198
Advocacy – Lessons from America’s Peonage History – John Henry Historicity Page 211
Advocacy – Ways to Promote a Call Center Industry Page 212
Advocacy – Ways to Impact Youth Page 227
Appendix – Growing 2.2 Million Jobs in 5 Years Page 257
Appendix – Job Multipliers Page 259

The CU will foster job-creating developments, incentivizing many high-tech start-ups and incubating viable companies. The primary ingredient for CU success will be Caribbean people, so we must foster and incite participation of many young people into STEM fields, so as to impact their communities. A second ingredient will be the support of the community – the Go Lean roadmap recognizes the limitation that not everyone in the community will embrace the opportunity to lead in these endeavors. An apathetic disposition is fine-and-well, we simply must not allow that to be a hindrance to those wanting to progress. The community ethos or national spirit, must encourage and spur “achievers” into roles where “they can be all they can be”. The book posits that one person can make a difference.

The Caribbean is arguably the best address on the planet, but the missing pieces for many people are jobs. The Go Lean roadmap starts with the assessment of the true status of the region, then the development of the plan to remediate the status quo, and finally the turn-by-turn directions to get to a new destination: a better place to live, work and play.

This Go Lean roadmap describes that the Caribbean is in crisis, a war with many battlegrounds. Our effort is worth any sacrifice, but this time our battle is not man versus machine, but rather man with the machine.

Download the book Go Lean…Caribbean now!

Footnote – a: John Henry

John Henry is an American folk hero and tall tale. He worked as a “steel-driver”—a man tasked with hammering a steel drill into rock to make holes for explosives to blast the rock away. He died during the construction of a tunnel for a railroad. In the legend, John Henry’s prowess as a steel-driver was measured in a race against a [machine], steam powered hammer, which he won, only to die in victory with his hammer in his hand and heart giving out from stress. The story of John Henry has been the subject of numerous songs, stories, plays, books and novels.

The historicity of many aspects of the John Henry legend is subject to debate. Until recently it was generally believed that the race between a man and a steam hammer described in the ballad occurred during the construction of the Chesapeake and Ohio (C&O) Railway in the 1870s.

In particular, the race was thought to have occurred during the boring of Big Bend tunnel near Talcott, West Virginia between 1869 and 1871. Talcott holds a yearly festival named for Henry and a statue and memorial plaque have been placed along a highway south of Talcott as it crosses over the Big Bend tunnel.

CU Blog - Where the Jobs Are - Computers reshaping global job market - Photo 1

In the 2006 book Steel Drivin’ Man: John Henry, the Untold Story of an American Legend, Scott Reynolds Nelson, an associate professor of history at the College of William and Mary, contends that the John Henry of the ballad was based on a real person, the 20-year-old New Jersey-born African-American freeman, John William Henry (prisoner #497 in the Virginia penitentiary). Nelson speculates that Henry, like many African Americans might have come to Virginia to work on the clean-up of the battlefields after the Civil War. Arrested and tried for burglary, he was among the many convicts released by the warden to work as leased labor on the C&O Railway.

According to Nelson, conditions at the Virginia prison were so terrible that the warden, an idealistic Quaker from Maine, believed the prisoners, many of whom had been arrested on trivial charges, would be better clothed and fed if they were released as laborers to private contractors (he subsequently changed his mind about this and became an opponent of the convict labor system). Nelson asserts that a steam drill race at the Big Bend Tunnel would have been impossible because railroad records do not indicate a steam drill being used there.

Instead, Nelson argues that the contest must have taken place 40 miles away at the Lewis Tunnel, between Talcott and Millboro,  Virginia, where records indicate that prisoners did indeed work beside steam drills night and day. Nelson also argues that the verses of the ballad about John Henry being buried near “the white house”, “in sand”, somewhere that locomotives roar, mean that Henry’s body was buried in the cemetery behind the main building of the Virginia penitentiary, which photos from that time indicate was painted white, and where numerous unmarked graves have been found.

Prison records for John William Henry stopped in 1873, suggesting that he was kept on the record books until it was clear that he was not coming back and had died. The evidence assembled by Nelson, though suggestive, is circumstantial; Nelson himself stresses that John Henry would have been representative of the many hundreds of convict laborers who were killed in unknown circumstances tunneling through the mountains or who died shortly afterwards of silicosis from dust created by the drills and blasting.
The well-known narrative ballad of “John Henry” is usually sung in at an upbeat tempo. The hammer songs (or work songs) associated with the “John Henry” ballad, however, are not. Sung slowly and deliberately, these songs usually contain the lines “This old hammer killed John Henry / but it won’t kill me.” Nelson explains that:

…workers managed their labor by setting a “stint,” or pace, for it. Men who violated the stint were shunned … Here was a song that told you what happened to men who worked too fast: they died ugly deaths; their entrails fell on the ground. You sang the song slowly, you worked slowly, you guarded your life, or you died.

There is some controversy among scholars over which came first, the ballad or the hammer songs. Some scholars have suggested that the “John Henry” ballad grew out of the hammer songs, while others believe that the two were always entirely separate.

(Source: Retrieved August 22 from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Henry_(folklore))

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