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Have It Your Way

While our Janus’ face is often turned to the future, it took a brief look back to an old Burger King ad when we heard the news of a study that showed that Robots could create twice as many jobs as they destroy. It seems a bit optimistic of the World Economic Forum which says while machines and computer algorithms could displace 75 million people it could create 133 million jobs. Of course, we realize that new technology always creates in its wake social unrest and disruption. The printing press as a prelude to the Reformation, newspapers to the rise of unions, television ushering in the era of civil rights and protests that launched the end of the Vietnam war and started woman’s rights movement. While all of these innovations both technological and social have made people’s lives better, there are always those who are caught beneath the wheel of progress. And while we have no doubt that the rising tide of progress will raise many boats, what happens to those whose skills don’t fit exactly in the last lifeboat. Perhaps, social media has brought reality into our lives with an immediacy that television couldn’t match that perhaps is calling us to forge a new more compassionate version of democracy. One in which the winners don’t always have it their way, as Burger King commercials used to say, a new world in which the high tide raises all boats, not just the ones of the rich or famous.

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The Persistence of the Cuckoo Clock

It was with a note of concern that I noticed the posting about a new service from LinkedIn, their Open Candidates tool which allows one to discretely put their resume in front of recruiters without having to make a public statement about looking for a new position. While at first, I thought it was a brilliant idea, having been in that situation in the not too distant past, looking for a job but doing very much on the down low. Then I thought a bit more about the new service and what it really meant. Growing up I lived in a world where my parents and the adults I know got a job and you stayed there till they got the gold watch when they retired. Just typing those words make me feel old and I realize that even that statement is probably outside of the frame of reference for many readers. The new constant seems to be inconsistency. Where we used to have a job for life we now seem to have a job as a brief perch between transition to the next job. Perhaps transition has become the new constant in the internet age. Perhaps everything is moving so fast we can hope only to understand the blur as the present rushes by, racing to be that past that we can only hope to comprehend.
While it could be tempting to leave things there on a note of gloom and despair that seems to be in vogue these days, it is also helpful to look at the last time we had a disruptive innovation, at that time with the advent of print which ushered in the Renaissance and the Reformation. Heraclitus knew best, our universe is always in flux as much as we wish to cling to the one unmovable spot, the center of a wheel (which is also moving). Perhaps Harry Lime was right and wishing for a constant unchanging world would leave us only the cuckoo clock.

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Harry Lime’s (Orson Welles) speech from Sir Carol Reeds film, “The Third Man” spoken on a Ferris wheel in the heart of Vienna to his friend Holly Martin.

“Like the fella says, in Italy for 30 years under the Borgias they had warfare, terror, murder, and bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, and the Renaissance. In Switzerland they had brotherly love – they had 500 years of democracy and peace, and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock. So long Holly.”

 

 

For another Friend of Harry Lime, with many thanks and fond memories.

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