The US Needs to Invest in Minds – Not Miners

❝ In J.D. Vance’s memoir “Hillbilly Elegy,” which recounts the blasted hopes of those left out of the modern economy, grandfather Papaw makes a prescient prediction: “Your generation will make its living with their minds, not their hands.” What Papaw didn’t foresee was that this shift would be far easier for women than for men.

❝ The US economy has long been moving away from “hands” industries such as mining and manufacturing toward “minds” sectors such as finance, health, and education. From 1970 to 2016, the share of workers in the former declined from 38 percent to 16 percent, while the share in the latter increased from 26 to 44 percent. Here’s how that looks:

❝ Less-educated men, who occupy more than three-quarters of “hands” jobs, have felt the sharp swing away from physical labor most acutely. By contrast, women comprised half of the “minds” jobs as far back as 1970, and their share grew in subsequent decades as they increasingly joined the workforce.

❝ The steadiness of the shift from hands to minds suggests that technology is the main driving force. “Minds” jobs became dominant in 1982, well before China joined the World Trade Organization in 2001, and continued at an unaltered pace during the hyperglobalization of the late 1990s and early 2000s. Although increasing trade with China might have contributed to the decline in demand for production workers, it clearly wasn’t the primary force behind the trend.

That’s about half the article. You get the point. And if United States citizens don’t kick the officials they elect into some sort of activity more useful than posing for Faux News interviews, future-proof employment will continue to decline for a significant chunk of our population.

I realize the poseurs in Congress like things the way they are. Not having to worry about an informed electorate is “useful” to hacks unaccustomed to involvement in progress and progressive thought. Sooner or later, the pitchforks and torches brigade will get it right – one would hope – and support someone capable of doing the hard stuff instead of believing in pimps like Trump and his peers.

Artificial Intelligence May Put Spies Out of Work, Too

❝ If Robert Cardillo has his way, robots will perform 75 percent of the tasks currently done by American intelligence analysts who collect, analyze, and interpret images beamed from drones, satellites, and other feeds around the globe.

Cardillo, the director of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, known by the acronym NGA, announced his push toward “automation” and artificial intelligence at a conference this week in San Antonio. The annual conference, hosted by the United States Geospatial Intelligence Foundation, brings together technologists, soldiers, and intelligence professionals to discuss national security threats, changes in technology, and data collection and processing…

❝ The fear that artificial intelligence will take over jobs, or fail catastrophically along the way, is palpable in the intelligence community as well, and Cardillo admitted that the workforce is “skeptical,” if not “cynical” or “downright mad,” about the prospect of automation intruding on their day-to-day lives, potentially replacing them.

❝ The coming revolution in artificial intelligence has been hyped for years, often falling short of expectations. But if it does happen, analysts worry they’ll become obsolete.

Cardillo, who called it a “transforming opportunity for the profession,” said he’s working on showing the workforce that artificial intelligence is “not all smoke and mirrors.” The message he’s sending to workers at the agency is that the goal of automation “isn’t to get rid of you — it’s there to elevate you.… It’s about giving you a higher-level role to do the harder things.”

So, not to worry. The government has got your back. Or some other part of your anatomy!