Govgeddon Is Not An Option

Govgeddon Is Not An Option

Interesting article in the Wall Street Journal about how the Federal government is falling to attract young people.

“Employees under the age of 30 hit an eight-year low of 7% in 2013…[while back in 1975, more than 20% of the federal workforce was under 30.”

Conversely, 45% of the federal workforce is older than 50.

Moreover by September 2016, a quarter of the all federal employees will be eligible to retire–that the retirement wave we’ve been hearing about for years, but never seems to really come (because of the economy).

Without “a pipeline of young talent, the government risks falling behind in an increasingly digital world.”

It’s not the older people can’t learn the technology, but rather they aren’t digital natives as those born in the later part of the 20th century.

To see just a glimpse of the digital divide, you need to go no further than when many of these folks snicker at us for even just sending emails–something so uncouth to the younger crowd.

With years of salary freezes, no awards, benefit cuts especially for new hires, and shutdowns, the federal government which used to be “an employee of choice,” is “now an employee of last resort.”

Further, “the reputation for bureaucracy and hierarchy is driving away many workers.” People want to be productive and get things done, not spin their wheels.

Yet, the government offers so many exciting jobs performing critical missions in everything from national security, diplomacy, law enforcement, and so much more, it is ironic that we cannot attract young people, who are often the most idealist.

Diversity in the federal workforce means that people under 30 are not a rarity!

Everyone–no matter what age, sex, race, religion, and so one–provides an important contribution, so that the sum of the parts is greater than the whole.

We need people to clearly feel the honor in public service, to see the importance of the missions performed, and to be treated like valued workers and not political pawns in partisan showdowns and Washington shutdowns.

Let’s actively recruit with an attractive smorgasbord of enhanced salary and benefits, especially in critical fields like cyber security, information technology, biotechnology, aerospace engineering, and more.

It’s time for the federal government to become attractive for young (and older) workers again, and not apologetic for providing important jobs in service of the nation.

The federal government needs to compete for the best and brightest and not resign itslef to second-tier, ever.

Our young people are an important pipeline for fresh ideas and cutting-edge skills, and we need them to prevent a govgeddon where we can’t perform or compete with the skills and diversity of workforce that we must have. 😉

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

It’s Not iStuff, It’s Your iFuture

Kids_learning_computers

There is an editorial in the Wall Street Journal (11 May 2012) called “Make It a Summer Without iStuff.”

It is written by David Gelernter, Professor of Computer Science at the prestigious Yale University and I was much dismayed to read it.

With all due respect, Gelernter makes the case–and a poor one at that–for keeping kids away from technology.

He calls technology devices and the Internet, “the perfect anti-concentration weapon…turning a child’s life into a comedy of interruptions.”

Gelernter states pejoratively that the “whole point of modern iToys…is not doing anything except turning into a click vegetable.”

Moreover, Gelernter goes too far treating technology and the Internet as a waste of time, toys, and even as dangerous vices–“like liquor, fast cars, and sleeping pills“–that must be kept away from children.

Further, Gelernter indiscriminately calls en masse “children with computers…little digital Henry VIIIs,” throwing temper tantrums when their problems cannot be solved by technology.

While I agree with Gelernter that at the extreme, technology can be used to as a escape from real, everyday life–such as for people who make their primary interaction with others through social networking or for those who sit virtually round-the-clock playing video games.

And when technology is treated as a surrogate for real life experiences and problem solving, rather than a robust tool for us to live fuller lives, then it becomes an enabler for a much diminished, faux life and possibly even a pure addiction.

However, Gelernter misses the best that technology has to offer our children–in terms of working smarter in everything we do.

No longer is education a matter of memorizing textbooks and spitting back facts on exams in a purely academic fashion, but now being smart is knowing where to find answers quickly–how to search, access, and analyze information and apply it to real world problems.

Information technology and communications are enablers for us do more with less–and kids growing up as computer natives provide the best chance for all of us to innovate and stay competitive globally.

Rather then helping our nation bridge the digital divide and increase access to the latest technologies and advance our children’s familiarity with all things science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), Gelernter wants to throw us back in time to the per-digital age.

With the ever rapid pace with which technology is evolving, Gelernter’s abolishing technology for children needlessly sets them back in their technology prowess and acumen, while others around the world are pressing aggressively ahead.

Gelernter may want his kids to be computer illiterate, but I want mine to be computer proficient.

iStuff are not toys, they are not inherently dangerous vices, and they are not a waste of our children’s time, they are their future–if we only teach and encourage them to use the technology well, balanced, and for the good.

(Source Photo: here with attribution to “Extra Ketchup,” Michael Surran)

>Technology and The Workforce Seismic Shift

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The Wall Street Journal this week (17 February 2011) had a scary and thought-provoking editorial called “Is Your Job an Endangered Species.”

The thesis is that “Technology is eating jobs—and not just obvious ones like toll takers and phone operators. Lawyers and doctors are at risk as well.”

The notion is that while technology creates opportunities for some, it is a major threat to many others.

The opinion piece says to “forget blue-collar and white-collar-workers.” Rather, think in terms of workers who are either “creators” or “servers”.

Creators—these are the innovators: programmers, researchers, and engineers. They are “the ones driving productivity—writing code, designing chips, creating drugs, and running search engines.”

Servers—these are jobs to service the creators: “building homes, providing food, offering legal advice,” etc. These jobs are ripe “to be replaced by machines, by computers, and by how business operates.”

These two categories of labor are similarly portrayed in the movie I. Robot with a vision of society by 2035 that has engineers (“creators”) from U.S. Robotics building robots and then masses of robots walking around side by side with people and performing everyday tasks from the delivering packages to caring for the sick (“servers”).

With manufacturing jobs continuing to move overseas to the “lowest price bidder” and service-based jobs at risk as we continue to make advances in robotics and artificial intelligence, there are a number of important questions that will challenge us:

1) Are the Creator jobs (augmented by the left-over service jobs that don’t go to robots or AI) enough to keep our population fully or even near fully employed?

2) Can almost everyone (no matter what their intellectual capability and curiosity) be expected to perform in the functional job category of creators?

3) Can we transition the preponderance of our society to be engineers and programmers and scientists and inventors—especially given our challenges in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), and is this even desirable?

According to the WSJ editorial, there are a few givens:

Momentous change in the job market is upon us: “Like it or not we are at the beginning of a decades-long trend” in changing employment prospects.

Jobs are going to be destroyed: “There is no quick fix for job creation when so much technology-driven job destruction is taking place.”

New jobs will be created: “History shows that labor-saving machines haven’t decreased overall employment even when they have made certain jobs obsolete.”

One of the major problems with the rapid pace of the technology boom we are experiencing is that job market has not had time to adjust—and the “legacy” labor supply is out of equilibrium with the emerging market demands.

Therefore, until new jobs and the associated education and training catch up to meet the demands of a changing society, we are going to suffer severe job dislocation and unemployment that will be enormously painful for many years yet to come.

In terms of what the gamut of new jobs will end up being in our society, surely it will involve areas of critical need such as energy independence, ongoing medical breakthroughs, necessary security advances, high-speed transportation, and so much more.

In all cases though, we can expect that those workers that bring innovation and modern technical skills “to the table” will have the distinct advantage over those that cling to jobs past their technological prime.

Digital natives will have the advantage here; digital immigrants need to adjust to the seismic shift to the employment landscape that is still only just beginning.

>"Your Brain On Google"

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Amazing video called “Digital Nation.”
Some great points from the interviewees at MIT, Stanford, and more:
“We are immersed in technology all the time.”
– “Technology is like oxygen.”
– “Well over half our lives exist in the digital world now.”
– “We are constantly multi-tasking and distracted.”
– “The world has sped up.”
“We just want to push the pause button.”
– “The Internet has changed from things one does to how one lives.”
– “We are changing what it means to be human.”

– “We are rewriting the rules of interaction for human beings.”

– “Can we solve the alienation that technology has created with more technology?
– “Does increasing use of technology have diminishing returns at some points?”
These questions and thoughts really resonate with me.
Looking back in my own life, things seemed so much simpler 10, 20, and 30 years ago.
Then we were less connected online and maybe a lot stupider intellectually, but more connected in real ways–doing real things with family, friends, and community.
Life is certainly faster now, but are we happier as human beings?
Are we losing ourselves and becoming part of the vast interconnected cyberspace almost as half-humans and half-machines ourselves?