Looking into a crystal ball and seeing the future is every economist’s dream. Futurists say we are transitioning out of the Information Age into a new theoretical Age that is very different from the past Agrarian and Industrial ages.
Like other transitions there is a certain amount of economic and social disruption. Jobs and job skills can dramatically change with each new age. The Information Age, for instance, brought on more analysis and thinking which supported technologies like virtual reality (like online training programs for learning how to fly) and user created content (like Facebook and YouTube).
The Information age also capitalized on exponential growth of data storage, data transmission, computational capabilities, and the microminiaturization process. These technologies have changed the way humans interact with each other which impacts existing economic and social structures. For instance, people now can create relationships with others that they normally in the past would never be able to do.1
The information age has changed the way that humans interact with each other and create or maintain relationships. This in turn changes existing economic and social structures.
Where are we going? We are theoretically transitioning into a new Imagination Age where if we can imagine something, it can be built. The term ‘Imagination Age’ was coined in 1993 in an article by Charlie Magee who proposed that human evolution could be assessed through a lens of communication. He suggested that the most successful groups (tribes, city, states, nation, etc.) had one thing in common--better communication than their competitors. Communication include access, quality, ability to leverage information into action, and the ability to communicate with other group members.1
How might this new Age affect our economy?. The skill set for the Information Age, for instance, was very different than the skill set needed for the Industrial Age. The skill set for the Imagination Age will be even more different. Futurists expect that 65 percent of today’s primary school students will hold jobs that don’t exist today.2
How do we prepare for jobs that don’t exist? It will take a concerted effort to think and take actions to help grow future workers. Again, the Futurists have theorized that future workers will need to be creative problem solvers that understand meaningful collaboration, risk taking, and can also improvise. They will benefit from being curious, having data interpretive skills, can think ahead, are resilient, with a bit of discipline and fun mixed in.3 This is a dramatic divergence from traditional education, experience, and thinking.
We will have, they say, an opportunity to control our destiny by designing machines that preserve our humanity... but the ability to communicate and collaborate may be the best tools we have in the future.
The Ages keep coming... They further predict an Age of Intelligence where machines may be smarter than people. Some people may be experiencing this already with their ‘Smart phone’ particularly before coffee in the morning. The phone gets us up, has a list of chores and events, and can help us research topics through high speed connections. An example of how this change is already affecting the job market can be found in publishing. Overall the publishing sector has declined, yet the “jobs for designers, architects, actors & directors, software engineers and photographers are all growing.”4 Jobs that require imagination will be at the forefront.
With all the changes in computers and data management (and movies such as “The Terminator” from 1984) this Age is fairly easy to imagine. What is not so easy to imagine is how to best prepare our future workforce for these types of challenges. One common theme seems to be the need for creative resilient workers who can collaborate well with others. Our challenge will be how to create workers to fit those needs not only through our educational processes, but through practice and mentoring.
We will have, they say, an opportunity to control our destiny by designing machines that preserve our humanity.”3 In the Intelligence Age, the ability to collaborate and communicate may perhaps be the best tools we have in the future. The next challenge may be to figure out how to ensure that our future workforce will have these skills.
1 “Imagination Age” Wikipedia, 06/04/19 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Imagination_age
2 “Creating an effective workforce system for the new economy” July 2018 by Chen, Wan-Lei, et al. at https://mck.co/2ETJSvk
3 “Imagination: What You Need To Thrive In The Future Economy” https://bit.ly/2wBKbXb
4 “Intelligence Age” Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intelligence_age
5 “Why connecting economic and workforce development matters,” https://bit.ly/EHpLRI