A few weeks ago, during a lunch, the talk revolved around the Information Technologies and its impact on employment growth. One of the diners simply stated that IT not only inhibited but rather reduced it, so companies should not invest in “those technologies” as he called them. I pondered for a moment my answer and told them this imaginary version of the history of mammoth hunting.
In the beginning the tribes that hunted mammoths only had lianas, a bit of strategy, a lot of courage and, above all, a great need to bring food to their families. Every incursion into mammoth territory implied the loss of some members of the tribe, usually because of the wounds received in the heroic battle against the beast. Of course, the survival of humankind justified the high cost. The woman resignedly received the news that her partner would not return.
One day, one of the most creative members of the tribe, frustrated by the loss of human life during the long and difficult hunting of such tremendous beasts, and after much thought, discovered that scraping a long branch with obsidian or something similar produced an artefact much more effective and efficient than the liana to reach the proposed goal: the spear.
Almost immediately he realised that the skills developed to hunt with lianas were not the same as those developed to hunt with spears. He also discovered that members of the tribe began to take three different positions in relation to his invention.
The first was formed by what today we call the pioneers and early adopters, made up of 15% of the population, who are eager to try new technologies and willing to pay for the costs of their maturing process in exchange for being the first beneficiaries of their use. They soon learned that the combined use of lianas and spears produced better results. Also, that a smaller number of hunters was not only enough, but better at achieving the result. Both strategy and tactics had to evolve and adapt to the use of this new technology. Soon, their success rate increased and the loss of lives reduced, resulting in greater productivity. Some hunters lost their jobs. However, this group was able to exchange his surplus meat with other members of his tribe and other tribes. This generated opportunities for members who no longer participated in the hunt to develop their skills and other satisfiers and exchange them. So, this first group took the lead in the generation of wealth.
The second group is made up of about 35% the members of the tribe who wait to see a new technology at work and decide to use it. Their wait is based on the “cost savings associated with the maturing process” that the pioneers have had to pay for, but they pay the cost of their wait by always going after those who took the lead. They certainly get the benefits associated with the use and exploitation of the new technologies and generate wealth for their group, so the sooner they do it, the better.
The rest of the tribe’s population resists the use of “these technologies” as they are seen to be a threat. Harmful, perverse or much worse. They explain their rejection of the tradition of the use of lianas in hunting, of the mammoth and the high honour of losing one’s life this way. Also, in the loss of jobs in the hunters and any other explanations they can find. Typically, their rejection comes from the fear of being out of your comfort zone, pushed by these new technologies. They forget that at one time the lianas were a new technology, or in words of Carlos Castillo Peraza, “every tradition was born from innovation”.
Eventually all the members of all the tribes ended up using spears to hunt mammoths and they saw it as something perfectly normal, the pioneers in its use generated greater wealth, faster, the rest was doing so to the extent and to the degree that they adopted the new technology.
It is clear that new technologies reduce jobs, but only in the short term and do so typically in tedious, arduous, risky or plainly dangerous tasks for human beings. In in the medium and long term, information technologies generate wealth, which in turn generates less tedious, less risky and usually better paid jobs.
Information technologies are a clear example of this. I remember a picture I saw at some large corporate offices with a full room with several dozen desks, each one with his chair and his typewriter: the company’s billing room at the beginning of the last century. Today sales are made with fully automated information systems and invoice requires a very small number of people, which could well be zero. However, today this store chain generates several thousand more jobs than it did a hundred and fifty years ago.
Surely many competitors of this company were born by the same decade of the nineteen century and disappeared on the way. Some for lack of business or timely adoption of new technologies, others by the combination of both. The closure of those companies generated more net job losses over time than did investments in productivity and competitiveness that Liverpool, like many other companies, have made in a timely manner.(The world)Mexico needs more productive and competitive companies that can beat the battle of the (“beasts” In the manufacture Industry.) Asian, European and American manufacturers. Information technologies are a key element. Do we want to be hunters with spears or with lianas? Will we continue importing surpluses from other countries allowing them to accumulate wealth, or we want to export our production surpluses and generate greater wealth for our own? Always new opportunities are born to be pioneers and take the lead, let’s do it.