On January 20, 2017, Donald Trump was sworn in as President of the United States of America.
Whether he knows it or not, he presides over the most powerful nation on the planet at a time when the planet is being swept up in the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
A brief step back: the First Industrial Revolution occurred in the 18th century and involved the use of water and the discovery and application of steam power which, in turn, led to the invention of machinery for production.
The Second Industrial Revolution occurred in the mid-19th century when electricity was harnessed in a major way and helped give birth to mass production and assembly line manufacturing.
On to the Third Industrial Revolution which ushered in the age of the computer in the late 20th century and with it, the birth of Information Technology and automation. Things were really starting to change fast when this revolution took hold.
So that brings us to the Fourth Revolution, in many ways a continuation and extrapolation of the Third.
What does all of this have to do with Donald Trump?
Trump won election largely because he promised to “bring back jobs” and “make America great again”. What he was thinking, being a man with a real estate and construction background and not much of a forward thinker, was the old “bricks and mortar” type of jobs. He campaigned to regenerate the Rust Belt, keep coal mines open and even held up a baby at a campaign rally and proudly announced that the infant was “a future construction worker”.
Sorry, Donald, it ain’t gonna happen.
The first jobs and wage report of 2017 in the U.S. seemed like good news but a closer look raises some questions.
Wages increased and employers continued to complain about plenty of available jobs without enough skilled workers to fill them. Yet, something called the JOLTS report or the Jobs and Labour Turnover Survey indicated that fewer employees were quitting in search of greener pastures – even with all those juicy vacancies out there.
In other words, we are witnessing a dramatic gap between skills in demand and those without the skills, between what’s needed and what’s being taught in schools.
Mr. Trump wishes to clamp down on immigration as if he was an Internet Service Provider clamping down on bandwidth; the effect will be the same – a choking off of the flow of data (human talent) when that data is so badly needed.
Rather than limit immigration (notwithstanding his populist reasons for wanting to do so), Mr. Trump should be leading the charge for rapid and immediate changes in the educational system in order to plug that huge and growing gap between skilled jobs and skilled workers to do them.
Those jobs in the Rust Belt aren’t coming back. Coal is a doomed commodity in a world where technology is driving energy, no matter what Mr. Trump thinks or says and threatening car makers via Twitter to build their cars in America will have the net effect of speeding up the already lightning fast approach of total automation in factories. Making highways and bridges like new again is fine but it doesn’t lead anywhere, certainly not to the future that is racing down upon all of us.
He needs to embrace a simple fact: the good old days are just that: old. The path to “make America great again” lies in the future and not the past.