Remember when 80% of Americans worked on small farms? Of course you don’t. But if the date was 1898, you’d most likely be working on a farm and thinking this is the best way for the economy to run. Unknown to you, you were part of the last gasp of the Agricultural economy and within 40 years, only 3% of Americans would be working on farms and 80% would be connected to the new economy—The industrial/consumer economy.
Fast forward 100 years and here we are again. In 2008, 70% of Americans work in the Industrial/consumer economy. Unknown to most, we are part of the last gasp of the Industrial/consumer economy. Within 10 years, a much smaller number will be working in this area while the grand majority will be connected to the new, new economy—the Post-industrial/service/Caring economy.
Transitions are difficult. Talking to a farmer in early 1900 and trying to explain to him that the farming days were over—I’m sure he’d have looked at the bearer of this ‘strange news” and laughed. And today, most of us react the same way when the end of the industrial/consumer economy is discussed. Shaking their heads no, no….they will say, “This is just a temporary situation—we’ll come out of it soon enough and be back to selling tons of consumables.” It is hard to see the future when you’re part of the current system that appears to have worked quite well for such a long time. But we are in transition.
The post-industrial service/knowledge economy arrived in 1975 and we’ve been slowly but surely transitioning towards it ever since. Not just in the US—globally. The first phase was the US shipping the industrial/consumer economy overseas and allowing other countries to catch up and become a part of this. Phase one is the easy phase because it doesn’t really look like anything has changed—location maybe, but not the economy as a whole. Now we’re about to enter Phase II and this is the much harder phase. And it looks like we’re going to do this second phase much like the earlier Agricultural to Industrial transition—through chaos, crisis and major intervention until we come out the other end adjusted to the new economy and how to be a part of it.
During the last gasps of the Agricultural economy, many businesses hung on to the last minute, resistant until they could resist no more. Like it or not, forces they had no control over swept over the world—fueled by cheap oil, technological innovations and lots of creative ideas which made staying in an agricultural economy futile. The need for humans to expand beyond the farm and explore these new fields that tapped into their creativity was a good thing in so many ways. Yes, there were downsides to be sure—but it was the next step in the progression that humans have been making for centuries.
And here we are again.
In the last gasps of the Industrial/consumer economy, many businesses are trying to hang on to the last minute—resistant until they can resist no more. Like it or not, forces many of us have no control over are sweeping over the world—fueled by resource depletion, global warming, overpopulation and needs for shifting into a sustainable economic system that supports life into the 22nd and 23rd centuries. The need for humans to expand beyond the factory lines and the mall and explore the new fields of the post-industrial Service/Knowledge/Caring economy will tap into the next wave of human progression and this will be a wonderful and good thing in so many ways. The downside is that transitions aren’t smooth and because so many are resistant to let go of the old, they block themselves from envisioning the future.
Just as the farmer of 1898 couldn’t imagine the interstate road system, two cars in every garage and flying to the moon, many of us today can’t imagine what a post-industrial Service/Knowledge/Caring economy will look like. Can you see a world where the caring for humans and the planet is the primary driver of our work instead of the factory line producing massive quantities of consumables?
A post-industrial Service/Knowledge economy is very different from a consumer economy. Service, Knowledge and Caring are the cornerstones of this new economy. There will still be some levels of consumption for sure—that’s always going to be necessary. But the more important focus of the economy will be based on relationships of highly knowledgeable people who care and serve each other to support life. It is an inclusive economy that recognizes that a global world is highly inter-connected and co-dependent. This is what we learned from the first phase of transition—that sending the industrial/consumer economy overseas forced us to recognize that we’re all in this together. One group winning at the expense of the others results in a lose-lose and can not be maintained. That’s what’s breaking down right now—as we head into Phase II—the hard part!
The future is a “Full Spectrum Economy”. It is a 6 sector economy instead of the current 3 sector economy (market, government and illegal). The three new sectors that will be vital in the new economy are the household (where optimal human development starts), the unpaid volunteer sector (where relationships are enabled throughout the community) and the natural sector (where caring for the planet employs thousands for restoration and long-term sustainability). There will still be a need for the market, government and hopefully less of the illegal sectors but they will employ many less than they do today.
A quantum leap of faith and the courage to leap into the post-industrial/ service/knowledge/caring economy is at hand. We have a choice—we can stay where we are and resist the future or we can be grateful for all that the industrial/consumer brought us and use it as a stepping stone into the new, Full Spectrum economy. Just as agriculture was a piece of the industrial/consumer economy, the consumer markets will be a piece of the post-industrial Service/Knowledge/Caring economy. What will be new is the increased value of the 3 new sectors as they become part of the measured economy and are factored into the economy.
Remember, an ‘economy’ is defined as the “activities that are necessary to live life”. As we move into the new economy—the activities necessary will be much more focused around knowledge, service, caring and less about consuming. We’ll see a huge rise in education systems, health systems, environmental systems, travel, entertainment, technology, arts, music, and creative fields that support optimal human development and caring for the planet. We’ll be tapping into the knowledge of thousands of years and applying it into services and caring that create a world that will provide humans a place on this planet into the next millennium—just a short 900 years away. Let’s look forward and transition now.