Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Creative Destruction: From Sci-Fi to the Palm of Your Hand

Today's edition of The Wall Street Journal has an engaging opinion piece by Orson Scott Card. For those of you who do not recognize the name, Card is the author of a very successful science fiction series that started with Ender's Game, a novel of young military genius who helps save the planet from a war with an alien species. The later volumes involve some moral dilemmas that come with "winning."

But Card's commentary is not about the book, but rather about how technology has changed our life in just one generation - call it creative destruction. The economist Joseph Schumpeter wrote about economic growth as creative destruction. He saw new enterprises, new opportunities, and new technologies always replacing older ones. The new created new jobs. The old took old jobs. And as the new jobs demanded new skills that society valued more; the wages improved. The old jobs, because they were connected with goods and services that were no longer valued as highly by society, saw wages languish.

Card talks about how changing technology has impacted how we communicate and how we even do research. But his piece reminded me of another. Mark Perry at Carpe Diem had a post on creative destruction last month. Specifically, he looked at all the devices that were being "replaced" by the smartphone. The list is impressive. And what about all the derived demand for labor that is being lost because we want everything at our fingertips? These might be useful when you next discuss the economic growth process. I welcome your thoughts.

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