Future Trends

by Elaine Smitha

As globalization of jobs continues to drain skilled workers from the U.S. in ascending order, from assembly tasks to manufacturing to computer programmers, it has reached the tipping point with scientists and engineers in research and development laboratories. I cannot help wondering who will be left in the U.S. to do the work when this outsourcing frenzy is over. Will the U.S. become a Third World country unable to take care of itself, vulnerable to cheap shots by anyone's pecking order?

No wonder the U.S. has shortage in research technicians. Jerry Thursby, a professor at Georgia Tech's College of Management and research associate of the National Bureau of Economic Research, says, "You have to have an environment that fosters the development of a high-quality work force and productive collaboration between corporations and universities if America wants to maintain a competitive advantage in research and development."

Further, Thursby, who has authored a corporate research study financed by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundations, suggests that "more and more research work at corporations will be sent to fast-growing economies with strong education systems, like China and India." Their strong educational system stands in contrast to the U.S. educational system that has "dumbed down" curriculums for some years now, teaching to the test instead of focusing on content, critical thinking, rational thought and common sense.

William F. Banholzer, Dow Chimical's chief technology officer, explains the swift economic growth of China and India by saying, in part, "There are so many people over there. . . no monopoly on brains, and none on education either." With American high-school students lacking science and math proficiency, and college graduates reluctant to pursue careers in science and engineering, the needs of business in those sectors slip the U.S. into a lower slot in the economic market.

Yet the University of California-Berkeley sees this situation as an opportunity to become the intellectual hub of the planet by setting up satellite schools with leading technical universities in India and with Tsinghua University in Beijing. Other leading American universities, aware of the profound shift in knowledge workers, are realizing that to stay ahead, or at least stay on par, they must also compete for talent in a global market.6

Suffice it to say, keeping up with technological advances while strumming the heart of buyers to orchestrate happy-tune bottom-line profits is the stuff of innovation. It's good to remember that workers are also consumers who act as advertising agents helping to build the business. Therefore, it is in the best interests of business to continue hiring living persons to help keep the supply lines generating profit, and to pay them a living wage.

That will work until a better plan emerges. Futurist Jacque Fresco has such a plan, wildly fresh in its perspective, in which structures for whole communities are built by robots assembling preformed metal units, a process mechanized to eliminate manpower and free people to learn and share the bounty of a living system in practice. His concept will give the people time to work in the garden, to go to school, to experience life and its blessings by participating in the whole of the community. In this community, everything is free, because the system is not based on money.

Fresco's vision of what the future can be for a sustainable New World civilization is based on a straightforward redesign of our culture, one in which human suffering is unacceptable. Neither is there debt, war, poverty or hunger. His perspective is to "declare Earth and all of its resources as the common heritage of all the world's people." Further, Fresco states in Future by Design, co-written with Roxanne Meadows, that his vision includes a unilateral

"resource-based economy [that] utilizes existing resources rather than money, and provides an equitable method of distribution in the most humane and efficient manner for all the world's people. It is a system in which all goods and services are available without the use of money, credit, barter or any other form of debt or servitude."

Fresco and his social-change venture, The Venus Project, admit that no government has ever initiated such a plan of action as he proposes. No doubt because it is up to the people to be so disillusioned with their leaders that they will speak up for change and make them seek an alternative social direction. Fresco's organization proposes a feasible plan of action striving toward a condition "where human rights are no longer paper proclamations but a way of life:'

This is the first positive change agent that makes sense. Yes, Fresco's a dreamer, but a dreamer with a vision for making this world a better place to live. He says that a different strategy is necessary, one emphasizing scientific method based on biology, not politics, to achieve a dynamic equilibrium between man and nature. No, he is not looking to create a Utopia, as some may suppose, but a viable future based on equanimity and sustainability in place of endless wars for oil and other resources to fuel the money machines.

William Gazecki, Academy Award-nominated filmmaker, calls Fresco a modern-day da Vmci, peer to Einstein and Buckminster Fuller, though Fresco describes himself as a multidisciplinarian or "generalist," interested in how various fields of study interrelate. As a multitalented social engineer and industrial designer, his credentials include broad experience in aerospace, medicine, architecture, automotive design, psychology and even more.

What I love is the way Fresco sees the quality of a total living system in his designs, though the structures themselves are machined and assembled by robots and mechanized for mass production. It is an integrated system, just like the human body. All aspects of it function with a unified goal of a healthy, self-sustaining system.

Fresco's designs also interface with comfort and utility. He bases his concept on the capacity of the human body to be efficient, flexible, strong and enduring, integrally supported by a neatly packaged organized system of blood and extracellular fluids. Each relies on the other, and some cells even multitask when the need is there. Nature must be in harmony to efficiently function, to make the flowers bloom and emit a fragrant perfume. Harmony is our goal in life and in business, just as it is in biology. Achieving this mission means that a lot of problems in business and in the population at large must be resolved. This worthy goal of a cooperative lifestyle invites everyone to compete for knowledge and experience in the fields of endeavor each person finds of interest.

While the success of this model is still years away, it is nevertheless a vision of the possible that will reflect a whole new set of values. Early settlers never dreamed of electric lightbulbs or cities where they could satisfy most all their needs, let alone flying around the world in a jet airplane or into space, yet it is our reality in the 21st century.