Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Two races

Ever since the industrial age began with mechanical looms, we have found that machines can be built to do things we want done, often doing them better and faster than we can manage without the machines.  The book "Race Against the Machine How the Digital Revolution is Accelerating Innovation, Driving Productivity, and Irreversibly Transforming Employment and the Economy" by Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee is one that looks at the continuing spread of modern machinery.  The invention of digital methods continues to affect more and more aspects of human life.  In the past, people have been too quick to announce that a trend had ended and it looks to me that we may yet see some very surprising and powerful innovations emerge, beyond the many that have and are modifying our lives.

I have seen speculation that human economy might someday reach the point where it no longer makes sense for humans to work.  At that point, everything might be better done by machines, leaving people to just lounge about, playing games and sports and musical instruments.

But there is another competitive race that I think also deserves notice.  That is the race between women and men.  I mean a race for position, power and prestige.  It wasn't that long ago that women were meant to be in the kitchen, the nursery and the bedroom.  No owning property or learning to read.  Since many men are larger, stronger and heavier than most women and since we are biologically wired to assume that bigger is more powerful, it seems that women are quieting replacing men in field after field.  How can that be?  How can they do it?

The modern age of digitalization, theory, and knowledge seems to fit very nicely with the quiet and concentration in which women excel.  I remember reading that when the Iranians captured those Americans and over-ran the American embassy, they grabbed a sack of shredded diplomatic documents.  They lusted after the information that might have been contained within and hired some of their patient women weavers who steadily reassembled the documents.  Try getting a group of red-blooded warriors to accomplish that!

On many campuses, in many professional schools and occupations, the numbers of women are climbing.  Everywhere that people skills, good memory, careful verification matters, women are doing better and better.  Science, engineering, medicine, law, politics, all sorts of administration are fields in which more and more women are excelling.

Take note, men.  You better apply yourself, get your homework done perfectly and eat right.  The future will be a struggle.

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