As this story suggests, these are not great days for ordinary workers around the world but please take a historical approach and act accordingly. Since the Industrial Revolution, we’ve seen this type of condition for workers about 5 times. It happens with regularity at 50 to 60 year intervals. These intervals are called K-waves after the early 20th century Russian economist, Nicolai Kondratiev.
K-waves have two parts, the first is expansionary. The first part is driven by a disruptive innovation like textile machinery, steam engines, or computers. In the first part there are lots of new jobs available for people with low skills and a desire to get ahead. These people build the factories, lay the train tracks, run fiber optic cable and install the first computers.
The second part of the K-wave is driven by economy and efficiency as capitalists try to squeeze cost out of their innovation. It’s a time of declining costs, wages and prices. If you want low prices, you have to accept cost lowering up to and including lost jobs. It’s necessary because the original innovation is commoditizing in the second half of the K-wave, prices drop because people all over the world suddenly have the wherewithal to make the innovation cheap.
Unfortunately, a cheap innovation or a commodity doesn’t have the ability to drive an economy full of high-paying jobs for people with limited skills. That’s where we are right now. Don’t worry though, a new K-wave is just around the corner. But what will it look like? What new products and services does the world need that it’s willing to pay top dollar for?
That’s easy. We need clean air and water, a more food production system, and a new energy paradigm that is renewable and doesn’t pollute. Climate change is driving these needs and it’s not hyperbolic to say that if we don’t get to work on this stuff soon, the middle of this century will be really, really ugly. There will be droughts and storms and wars over water and food.
By 2050 we can expect another 2.5 billion people on earth (hopefully not more). What will they eat? Where will they live? How will they flush? What kinds of jobs will they have?
That’s why K-waves are so important. The one forming is about sustainability including a lot of infrastructure building to supply fresh water, energy, and de-pollute the environment. Plenty of jobs for people without plenty of education. But we have to get started.
I wrote a book about all this, “The Age of Sustainability.” It’s at Barnes and Noble and Amazon if you’re interested. Also there’s more at www.AgeSustainability.com.