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D. P. Lubic

Looking back on the little conversation above, a thought occured to me: is it possible to argue that we had a more knowledge-based economy in the low-tech era prior to the 20th century and the auto age?

Farmers had essentially the same challenges they face now, except they didn't have a lot of high-tech machinery; they still needed the knowledge to "read" the weather and understand business practices. Granted, they didn't also have a lot of taxes and other regulations, but that doesn't change the principles of what you are doing.

You mention that a characteristic of knowledge workers is that they are problem solvers. I can't help but think of navigators on ships without the luxuries of GPS, who had to "shoot" the stars--and read weather, too; of railroad engineers on often cantankerous steam engines who regularly had to deal with the problems of bad coal (poor steaming, excessive smoke, clinkers), poor boiler water (poor steaming, foaming in the boiler, and priming, or carrying water out of the boiler and into the cylinders), assorted mechanical problems, poor visibility in blizzards and fog; architects and design engineers, who had to design and build things without the aid of computers, and sometimes with limited materials or materials that weren't available at the time, such as high-strength specialty steels; all sorts of other trades that required skill and knowledge, most of which did not come in formal education--indeed, I have to wonder if we haven't become much dumber over the years because our machinery does so much for us that we just don't learn some things, because we think we don't need them.

That's what we think--until the power goes out, and the teenager at a sales register can't make change because his register is down; that would be no problem at all for the people who ran stores out of a cigar box in the old days. . .

Of course, I'm not really advocating we go back to the Victorian age, although the romantic in me that others say I am sees much to like about the idea. At the same time, might it have been true that we needed to be more knowledgeable before than many of us would later be in the industrial age?

D. P. Lubic

Thank you! Actually, your definition of "knowledge workers" is much broader than what I thought you had in mind; you do speak very greatly of the internet and all. . .

And yes, if by "knowledge workers," you are including the skilled trades such as carpentry, plumbing, electrical work, and even some manufacturing work, then yes, knowledge work is where it's at! (It's just not all in front of a computer, which is what I thought you had in mind.)

Now, I would also include in knowledge work most agriculture (think of how much is involved in running even a small farm), aircraft manufacture (even if a lot of it involves screwing things together, it is still craftsman work, for lives depend on how well you do this job; I know, I have an uncle who is now retired from Boeing), and, of course, it will take skilled labor to rebuild the rail system. . .and to run it, too. I would even include passenger services in this; think of how diplomatic and "people skilled" a conductor, a trainman, or a porter must be in dealing with passengers. . .

Care to add to the list? I know what I've got isn't anywhere near complete. . .

And I guess I'll have to round up a copy of your book. . .looks like it might be a good read, if I get a round tuit (all the tuits I seem to find are square!)


@D.P. I imagine that the Mississippi farmers of 100 years ago would have a hard time understanding what the Industrial Age was going to be like. Just like you're having a hard time understanding what a knowledge economy would be like.

Obviously, you don't work on an assembly line. You're a knowledge worker. Is that the dream you have your children - to become factory assembly line workers? Why would you want that for someone else's children?

Not all knowledge workers are white collar workers. I would argue that plumbers are knowledge workers - because they are problem solvers. There are plenty of skilled trades jobs that aren't going anywhere. I get that not everyone wants to work on a computer - but if you're hoping for a day when workers will spend 30 years putting screw "a" into hole "b," it's not going to happen. We need a skilled, educated workforce in order to be successful in the 21st Century.

D. P. Lubic

It has been said there are only three really useful enterprises--growing things, making things, and moving things around from where they are to where they are needed.

That little saying is part of why I wouldn't be so down on industry. Somebody, somewhere, has to make or grow what we use and eat. I do not regard it as a good idea to be dependent on a tyrant or a dictatorship for anything, whether it be oil, steel, food, or computers.

In addition to that, let's admit that not all of us can be marketers and web page designers; I work in an unemployment office, believe me, you can have some very smart people who are not of a temperament to sit in front of a screen all day.

Some people think the machine and tool and die trades aren't worth much. I found out quite differently on a payroll audit I had to do on a machine shop. One of the products of this shop was a large sheet with microscopic holes in it. This sheet was to go into a plant making artificial fibers for synthetic cloth, such as nylon. Most people don't know this, but the "feel" of the artificial cloth, whether nice and silky or warm and fuzzy, or even scratchy, is because of the shape of those holes. Some of them have shapes you wouldn't think of being used, such as "Ls" and "Zs," and they are all tiny, tiny, tiny. The men who make those holes make good money, and have plenty of work, too.

Having said that, I see no reason to vote for the Republicans at all. The issue is the one you bring up here--railroads. In my opinion, the "American way of life," as defined by what James Howard Kunstler has called a "Happy Motoring utopia," has become the priniciple American security threat. We understood that in WW II, when we rationed gasoline to conserve the national rubber supply until synthetic rubber plants could get built; most people got by on three gallons a week.

It amazes and disgusts me that the Republicans apparently fail to understand this.

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