At the core of Michigan Future’s work is the belief that globalization and technology are mega forces that are fundamentally changing the economy. That change is now a permanent feature of life. It’s not an adjustment to a new economy that is required but constant adjustments to new realities. The places that understand that and align with new realities the quickest will do the best.
Along comes a New York Times story on the book business that demonstrates the power of those forces quite clearly. The fact that it is the book business – an industry that has been around for centuries – makes the story even more important. It’s not just high tech, but all industries that are being transformed constantly by globalization and technology. The basic facts: the adoption by readers of e book technology (things like the Kindle and I Pad) has been much quicker than anyone thought. Eight percent of the books sold this year, projected to be 40% over the next few years. That puts book retailers in jeopardy of going the way of music retailers. Basically gone. Thousands and thousands of jobs likely to be gone not just in book stores but in making and distributing physical books.
It is not just the auto industry, nor is it disproportionately Michigan based enterprises, that are endangered by globalization and technology. It is all industries, everywhere. The reality is everyone is wrestling with how to prepare people for a world where the job you have today, your occupation, and even the industry you are in is less stable today than yesterday and even less stable tomorrow than today. This new reality is going to require each of us to be more agile but also for communities to create systems to help us constantly learn new skills and transition from one job/occupation to the next. No one yet knows how to do any of that well. Building systems that help people succeed in this new context is the preeminent challenge for policy makers going forward.