With all that has been written and talked about regarding the rapid advance of our new Digital Era and this Information Age that we all live in today, average Americans still have not really grasped the power and opportunities that are available to them.
A good example is this website. A forum such as LatinoLA would have been extremely difficult and too costly to make available before the advent of the internet. People from all over the world can now express themselves and read the published thoughts and opinions of a diverse body of community participants.
It is healthy for democracy. It is powerful. It also levels the playing field of public opinion. No longer is there such a stranglehold monopoly by the corporate main-stream media for distribution of thoughts, opinion and news.
But is there other ways that the digital age can benefit the average person?
More often than not, average people have been working on developing ways to include technological tools in an effort to become more efficient at what they do. We use email and our corporate websites as a way to communicate quicker. We use conference calling and video conferencing as a way to efficiently communicate with co-workers and managers. Network servers, personal digital assistants and cell phones keep us connected twenty four hours a day.
For the most part we have used technology to exponentially increase the wealth of our corporate executives and bosses. It takes fewer of us to make them more money. Meanwhile corporate layoffs are at all time highs and job insecurity is the feeling of the day for the corporate world.
Small business America has similar challenges. Are we any less busy? Is the market place any less competitive? The ?rat race? is being run faster and faster but are we any better off because of it? Or do we find ourselves just having to run faster on the treadmill to remain at the same financial place?
Could it be that we are utilizing these tremendous digital tools within a mindset or paradigm that is counter productive for our day to day lives? Several business and economic philosophers such as Paul Zane Pilzer and Robert Kiyosaki think so.
We live in a time of unprecedented opportunity. Today, technology has given us the ability to increase the level of our lifestyles much more than before. Perhaps most telling, our greatest wealth is derived from our ability to electronically collect and process information with silicon chips, which we create from sand. As the mathematician Mitchell Feigenbaum once put it, ?we make computers from dirt.?
In our twentieth century, humankind?s economic output over less than one hundred years exceeded the economic output of the previous one hundred centuries. And yet, as we completed that last century and entered into this new one, fewer and fewer of us feel rich. And even among those of us who do feel rich, fewer and fewer of us seem secure in our newfound wealth. In fact, we all at times feel that we are trapped in the Red Queen?s race in Alice in Wonderland?having to run faster and faster merely to stay in the same place.
It seemed so simple in the past. The recipe for success was to go to school, choose an occupation or a company, and work in that field or for that company for the rest of your life. Looking back on just the past ten years, it seems as if this former recipe for success has become a recipe for disaster!
In 1985, there were about one hundred thousand people employed in a $2 billion industry manufacturing vinyl records, virtually all of who were displaced as the digital CD swept the music business by 1990. Who could have foreseen in 1985 that an almost one hundred year old industry that survived through two world wars would dissolve itself in less than 5 percent of the one hundred years it took to develop?
These and other technological changes caused the displacement of 20 million blue-collar workers in the 1980s, when it became socially acceptable in the United States to fire workers in obsolete occupations rather than to keep and retrain them. Moreover, the displacement of these blue-collar workers in the 1980s already pales in comparison to the displacement of white-collar workers that we experienced all through the 1990s and now into this century.
And yet, despite the ever present complaints in the media and the demagoguery from our politicians, the cold hard economic fact is that we are richer than ever before. Far richer. But why is the fact that we are far richer cold and hard?
The reason is that, unlike previous waves of economic prosperity, our current wave of prosperity is not a wave at all. In reality, our current period of economic prosperity is more like an emerging range of mountains?large and strong, but with ever-increasing peaks and craters. While the entire range of mountains may be rising higher and higher above sea level, your perception of how high or low it is depends almost entirely on the internal vantage point from which you view it.
For the employees of the record companies in Los Angeles, the switch to CDs was a godsend because their firms now sell many times the amount of audio compact discs that they used to sell of vinyl records. But to the former employees of these same companies, who manufactured the vinyl records in Ohio and Pennsylvania, the recession of 1991 came as early as 1985 and still shows no sign of retreating.
Even more impressive and relevant to readers of this short article, the many people that were shaken and made insecure in today?s volatile and often hostile workplace and instead focused on learning to take advantage of what the internet and technology makes available to them, have been creating and growing profitable e-commerce businesses that can be run from home during their non-productive time. They are learning to use yesterday?s Industrial Age employment model as a foundation and funding source to develop business systems and thus create assets that give them additional cashflow. Many use these models as a way to diversify and provide additional security while advancing in their careers, while some actually transition into their own full time online businesses and leave the corporate world altogether to focus on teaching these business models to others.
The significant point is that once we understand how and why displacement in the workplace causes economic insecurity on the one hand, but also creates economic opportunity on the other, we can apply the macro-economic principles underlying our total economy to our lives as individuals. This will insure, on a micro-economic basis (our day-to-day lives) that we will thrive as individuals in scaling the next range of mountains ahead?the workplace of the twenty-first century.
As our Latino community continues to grow, we all need to think outside the box and study how we can take advantage of these ever advancing technological tools in order to have more control and power in our own economic day to day. Our children need to learn this lesson and not only be confined to the traditional "Industrial Age" education that they are still being taught.
Education. Agitation. Motivation.
Franco Gonzalez is a business owner, social justice activist and teacher in Los Angeles. He can be reached at: http://www.LatinosAdelante.com. Join the vibrant discussion on this and other Latino issues at: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/latinosuccess