Saturday, December 01, 2007

Non-job Unions of the 21st Century

There is a tsunami headed for the shores of the United States. Instead of a massive wave of water, it is an ever growing wave of technological change.

Ray Kurzweil - an inventor, an entrepreneur, an author, and a futurist explains the realities driving the oncoming technological tsunami: The whole 20th century, because we’ve been speeding up to this point, is equivalent to 20 years of progress at today’s rate of progress, and we’ll make another 20 years of progress at today’s rate of progress equal to the whole 20th century in the next 14 years, and then we’ll do it again in seven years. And because of the explosive power of exponential growth, the 21st century will be equivalent to 20,000 years of progress at today’s rate of progress, which is a thousand times greater than the 20th century, which was no slouch to change.

This very rate of change itself dictates and then necessitates major changes in both our workforce and the way it will potentially be organized. Increasingly, workers of the 21st century will be required to become adaptable skilled full time learners who are comfortable working simultaneously in both the real and the virtual world.

Needless to say, the workers who have 20th century skill sets and an aversion to change and/or education will be unable to compete in this new world. This unfortunate and potentially disastrous byproduct of this exponential growth rate will leave millions of low and middle skilled workers in untenable economic situations.

Traditional models for 20th century labor unions were organized by either trade or by industry. The protection of workers necessitated the formation and then the execution of principals or policies that deliberately slowed the rate of trade/industry changes.

The unions in the 21st century will evolve into decentralized web based affiliations that will organize the power and voice of like educated, like skilled workers. As opposed to their 20th century counterparts, these affiliations will feed off the change and evolution of technology. Instead of being organized in trades or industries, they will be focused around education, skill sets, and work experience.

Finally, traditional labor unions are for all intensive purposes, dead! And in their place, web based brotherhoods will nurture the workers of the future and help them to ride the coming wave of technological change.

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