America is on the edge of an abyss called Industry 4.0, where it can either take the leap to the next level of innovation and productivity, or forever fall down into a state of perpetual decline of its living standards. There are many factors that point to the eventual decline of the American civilization and some say it started with the dot com crash, and others point to the Great Recession after the housing and financial collapse. The export of manufacturing to China and other nations and the dependence of the American consumer on other nations, both for its goods and also for its deficits is disheartening. We are on a downward cycle that is slowly spiraling out of control with trillions in deficits. A nation of debtors cannot lead, and the divide between the rich and the rest is growing, and will lead to class conflict, and a permanent rendering of our social fabric.
The decline in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) education is worrisome and so is the disappearing middle class. More people are dropping out of the working class, because of inability to earn a living wage, and the destitute and disabled are straining the state and city resources. Good paying jobs have gone the way of the dodo bird, and we might as well tighten our belts, and pray that social security and Medicare will last into our old age. The despair is reflected in the dysfunctional election primaries we just witnessed and the rise of health and mental issues across the land. Some have felt the Bern and talk about a social revolution. Others believe that Trump is the leader of high moral standing, who will lead us to the next Cultural Revolution.
Personally I believe that there are green shoots coming up and some of it is the resurgence of manufacturing in America. I believe in a coming Industrial Revolution that will transform America and the rest of the world. Everywhere I look I see the emergence of new innovation and technology. From the days when Ford offered its customers “any color they want, long as it is black” to the new F 150 trucks which can be configured a million different ways from the same assembly line. American manufacturing has come full circle with robotics, lasers, software, hardware advancements that were scarcely imagined just a few decades ago. The resurgence of the automotive sector where GM’s new cars are a marvel of efficiency and technology can scarcely be believed, from a corporation that Obama had to bail out just recently.
The never say die attitude of continuous innovation has brought cheap energy in abundance from the shale formations. Cheap gas has driven the largest coal producer Peabody bankrupt and gone a long way in the greening of America. We will soon be the cheapest producers of plastics, resins, steel, automobiles and planes in the world. Our labor is the most productive and if things continue with newer software and hardware convergence, the gap will only widen. There is no other silicon valley in the world and we still attract the brightest and the best. Even one of the oldest Dow Jone’s Company GE is reinventing itself, as an innovation driven, software optimized, 3D metal printing of complex jet nozzles, guzzler of latest technologies and manufacturing oomph. The green energy from renewal sources is just starting to take off at a massive scale, and this will provide impetus to the next new smart cities and rising living standards. Driverless cars, green cities, research universities, modern factories with better paying jobs in manufacturing will bring new life into the economy.
The information age is built on a foundation of cutting edge technology, and majority of its innovation, still comes from America. Social media and the new unicorns of how we interact with society and each other are still being built out in America, and the rest of the world is following. There are cheaper and more efficient ways to do things as proven by the likes of Google, Facebook, Amazon, Uber and others who did not even exist just a short time ago. The billions in new wealth created by these corporations is based on the emergence of innovative software and increasingly complex hardware convergence. The new Masters of the universe are not the Wall Street tycoons exchanging bonds and corporate paper, but the likes of Page, Bezos, Jobs, Zuckerberg. Gates and Allison who create the next new thing.
Yes my faith in American manufacturing has been reborn and I believe this will be the greatest century of American creativity and innovation. We have the vision and aptitude for disruption, and the universities and research and development between government and private sector, which is the envy of the world. Those who rumor that America is not capable of producing anything but services and information, in the mistaken belief that we are just an overgrown agrarian economy, are not seeing the whole picture. The rust belt based on coal, steam and old manufacturing may be dead, but its successors are proving to be far stronger and more resilient. Nano technology, Genetic engineering, Bio Technology, Custom production to meet individual needs are here, and will only improve at a faster rate as energy costs continue to go down and productivity improves.
The crucible of human endeavor is all in the spirit of our people. Long as we allow this spirit to grow, there is no other nation that can best us from our desired goals. We will stake our fortunes and take the risks of making a better world, just as the founding fathers did against the greatest empire and won. There is no force that can hold us back if we stay true to our ideals and continue to strive for a more perfect union. Manufacturing powers can help us rebuild our Middle Class, with better paying jobs and a more equitable society. We can bring the prosperity to the rest of the world and lead in improving the living standards of humanity. With dedication and American ingenuity we can leap this abyss of our despair, of Malthusian predictions of our decline, and come out even stronger on the other side!