The Tiger (Lions & Tigers & Bears)

Tiger with dangerous look

At the beginning of the eighteenth century, 74% of the population of the United States farmed for a living; today less than 1% percent of us farm. Over the last two centuries an agrarian way of life that existed for millennia has simply disappeared.

Five hundred years ago, when knowledge doubled about every 100 years, Leonardo DaVinci could be a Renaissance man—essentially knowing almost everything knowable about chemistry, physics, mathematics, and natural sciences.  Not so today. Last year alone, there were millions of publications on almost every field of human knowledge. Knowledge now doubles every six years and we live in the midst of an explosion of new technology, products, and services unleashed by that knowledge.  A top mathematician today cannot even stay abreast of all of the new discoveries in mathematics, much less physics, architecture, and painting.

The Tiger chasing us is change.

It is hard to build stable and lasting businesses, governments, NGOs, and families when a tiger has you by the tail.

Of course, living with the tiger does have advantages. The raw computing power of  $50,000 in 1983 costs you only five dollars today—and it’s a much tighter package. Many things you purchase for $10 today weren’t possible at any price in 1995. Cars drive themselves, tourists fly to outer space, and private companies can build and launch intercontinental ballistic missiles (oops, sorry, space rockets).

If your business involves technology, you cannot afford to stand still; a fixed five-year plan is laughable. Modern plans have to adapt and evolve—quickly— just to remain relevant. Technology may well change more in the next ten years than it did in the second millennium.

Here is the rub: even if you aren’t in the technology business, the rate of technological change directly impacts you.  Software is eating the world.  The Cashier as a job is rapidly disappearing: parking lot attendants, toll booth operators, supermarket and fast food cashiers are all being replaced by software-driven kiosks. Call center operators, bank tellers, even insurance adjuster jobs are now threatened by self-service apps. Most driving and delivery jobs may disappear by 2030. No job is really safe. Not only are millions of jobs simply vanishing, but now grocery stores and toll booths are in the technology business, and being stalked by the tiger. And technology businesses? They are all making cars.

Traditional roles and institutions are always strained and tested by change, change that is now unceasing, unrelenting, and inescapable.

TL;DR:  Traditional ways of successfully making a living are rapidly disappearing because of the ever accelerating rate of technological change.

(Tom & Kyle)

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