If the Industrial Age is dead, how will Manitoba adapt?

3-D printing is likely to change the job market drastically, potentially killing thousands of manufacturing jobs.
3-D printing is likely to change the job market drastically, potentially killing thousands of manufacturing jobs.
Dorothy Dobbie - Bold Idea
Dorothy Dobbie – Bold Idea

“Secrecy and propriety used to define our cultural and professional lives. We kept trade secrets, held closed-door meetings, had whispered conversations and kept the details of our comings-and-goings to ourselves. That’s no longer the case. We have entered a new era – one characterized by openness – in which our world and our relationships have become increasingly interconnected.”
– Don Tapscott, co-author, “Radical Openness, Four Unexpected Principles for Success.”

The world is changing so fast that the skills you learned in your first year of university are already obsolete by your fourth year (so says Don Tapscott, broadcaster and author).
He goes even further on his CBC broadcast, ReCivilization, proclaiming: “The Industrial Age is over.”
He bases his comments on the fact that the world of digitization is revolutionizing how we make and consume products. In an economy where we can 3-D print almost anything, from meat, to wing spars for commercial aircraft, to hearts, livers, joints and bones; where Bitcoin is in the process of making banks obsolete; where the old model of protection for intellectual property has broken down; the way we live and do business is being profoundly changed.
Consider this: within a few short years, 3-D printing could replace thousands of jobs in the manufacturing sector. Need a new pair of shoes? Go to the Internet, download a design, fill your printer with a powdered poly substance and press a button. And it is not just shoes. Whole buildings can be readily printed, component by component, and assembled by a very small crew of people.
This is not science fiction; it is not a hundred years away. It is almost now.
Are we ready? The answer is a resounding: no! We still think in the old-mind mode. Worse, so do governments, which continue to apply old thinking to new and emerging problems. Consider the ridiculous anti-spam legislation that attempts to prevent businesses from using emails that are publicly available through directories on the Internet.
This antediluvian legislation comes in to force July 1, but I would bet a very large sum that it will be virtually unenforceable.
At the educational level, schools and universities are still applying a several-thousand-year-old model to passing on knowledge, while the kids they are supposed to be teaching have already bounded ahead of the professor, consuming information relevant to their personal needs faster and more efficiently than it can be generated through textbooks and lectures – and hungrily racing ahead to find applications for all this knowledge.
Keeping up
In our little Manitoba world, we will need to be nimble to keep up. But how? Through collaboration and open minds. As Tapscott points out, open source information or networked intelligence is the pathway to the new world. This approach can be applied at very fundamental levels to solve practical problems.
Original thinking has always been a hallmark of Manitobans. And we have always been pretty good at getting together to make things happen. Let’s take these advantages one step forward and make the Chamber’s BOLD model work even more effectively by focusing on making change happen.
A simple but practical place to start is with the dreadful state of the streets in Winnipeg, beginning with the route from the airport to downtown.
The local city councillor, Scott Fielding, could call a meeting of interested stakeholders: local businesses, residents, and civil servants from Public Works, Parks and any other department that might have an interest.
The purpose of the meeting would be to achieve general agreement (note, I don’t say consensus – a utopian idea), strike a plan of action, and share the responsibility for beautifying the route, fixing the roads and looking at new ways to prevent winter deterioration – including electrification and the use of newer technologies and products.
Think it won’t work? Why not try. The answers are out there; we just need to bring people together with an open mind to find the solutions. And then apply them.
Flush with this success, we can move on to bigger problems. And change our world ahead of the curve.

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