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Technology and Economic Sustainability: Friends or Enemies?

Technology is a wonderful enhancement. It has brought us so much and has made our lives more convenient in ways previous generations never thought.

Technology has helped launch businesses and breed many entrepreneurs and have allowed us to really cut time in arenas such as shopping (i.e. Amazon), searching and researching (i.e. Google) and facets such as financial transactions (think of mobile banking apps) and to become more connected (i.e. Facebook) with using portable computers (i.e. Apple and their iPhones).

The explosion in technology especially throughout the launch of Apple Inc.’s iPhone over the last decade has been remarkable. There is an app in every industry for the common every day problems and from these apps, new and innovative companies are sprouting to have everything at your fingertips.

As a Financial professional with an Economics degree (and an Economics nerd at heart), technology makes me anxious.

Here is why.

Demographics

Unfortunately, more than a year out — we are still digesting the stunning results of the U.S. Presidential Election of 2016. Two headlines immediately come into play here.

The number one headline: Demographics and where the tech scene primarily is based. Whether politicians chose to admit this or not, the United States’ Economy runs on the coasts.

In the Western Region, the financial capital ranging from individual investors to Venture Capital firms, strategic resources, population densities and major corporations are based in San Diego and run up the coast to Seattle.

In the East — Miami and all up the coast to New York City, Washington D.C. and Boston.

But what about the rest of the United States?

Sure, there are major cities in the Mid West and Central time zones that are key players to the economy such as Chicago, Dallas and Houston. But for the most part, the financial resources (lets not forget the ports, of course for international trade) are on the coasts.

Technology firms have been focusing their imprint and building their headquarters through the coasts for very obvious reasons that are understandable:

Major metropolitan areas →Greater customer base →Greater sampling of product testing →Greater potential for scale →Greater reach →Greater bottom line.

Source: CNN Money. Tweeter clusters across the United States.

The map above from CNN Money, provides a visual towards technological centers and population hubs where each of the coasts are lit illustrating the densities and where firms are focusing their resources.

The darkness in the middle of the nation is where there is cause for concern in the economic landscape and really the source for a lot of misinformation and animosity that was really put on full display in the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election.

Economics

The second headline: Economics. A lot of economic reports and the media discuss a real issue in the age of rapid technological advances.

According to recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate stands at 4.1% — a term, Economists point out as “full employment”. This was the holy grail of accomplishments for the Clinton Administration in the 1990s and what every political administration strives for.

In many situations, 4% of unemployment is a reason to cheer with success, but this 4% is different than the 4% full employment rate of the 1990s.

As many job openings as there are in 2017, corporations are having trouble filling those open positions illustrating a major skills divide in the nation’s workforce.

On the other hand, recent surveys polled that workers are having problems finding other career opportunities which presents an issue that is really in play: technological divide that is a corollary to the skills divide.

Fever & Thought

Much more effort needs to be made in really addressing and bridging the skills and technological divide in this nation and really being honest with the American people.

This needs to start with Silicon Valley.

The real reason for why a lot of jobs are disappearing? Not immigrants. And we need to stop this lie from our politicians, but rapid technological advances — and it may get worse in terms of perception.

Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence (A.I.) is not a trend but really concerns a lot of employees. Organizations are investing heavily in to A.I. that could perform operations faster on a greater mass scale and unfortunately, will become a much cheaper alternative to human labor.

Technological behemoths such as Amazon, Facebook, Google and Apple need to understand that tech cannot be a coastal movement but an Americanmovement and at the moment, Middle America is literally and figuratively left in the dark.

This causes a lot of animosity, fear, arrogance and frustration about why the nation is progressing the way it is, and why there are misguided chants to quote:

Take this country back!

Outlook

Source: Los Angeles Times, 2017.

This is why Amazon’s search for a second headquarters (dubbed #HQ2) is generating such incredible interest with a potential of 50,000 employees being hired at the center, with the corporation planning to invest a whopping $5 Billion in to their second home.

Personally, as an Economics student, I am hoping and rooting that a Middle American/Mid-Western city (other than Chicago) is the ultimate beneficiary.

Amazon’s decision could instantly propel another, lesser known city in to another technological hub.

We could really start to bridge the technological and skills divide and to furthermore tackle the root of employee displacement with preparing employees for careers in the 21st century.

Why I reiterate:

Technology cannot be a coastal movement, but must become an all-nation movement

PS. If Amazon decides on a Canadian city for their second home, as some cities have been mentioned, then this article is not negated — but hopefully to serve as a notice for the industry in investing more in the Mid part of the North-American continent nonetheless.

This story is published in The Startup, Medium’s largest entrepreneurship publication followed by 277,994+ people.

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Technology and Economic Sustainability: Friends or Enemies? was originally published in The Startup on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.
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