Monthly Archives: August 2014

No one really understands the unemployment rate

The author is right — the unemployment rate is hard to understand, but the video provided here is a good tutorial. I spent some time trying to better understand this subject myself and wrote up the results on my blog, in the post “Working Till 2025: Life is Tough These Days.” I came up with an imperfect way of measuring what I call “at risk workers.” Reading this inspires me to update the table and associated graph in my post to see how things have changed.

The Context Of Things

There are actually six different “unemployment rates,” although predominantly when people use that term in cocktail party banter, they mean “the number of people looking for work who can’t actively find it.” But by no means is that the entire picture (I wrote about this a little bit when I was just starting this blog). First, you need to consider this — U.S. labor force as a percentage of population peaked in 1999 at 67.1 percent. Phrased another way, it’s like this: since these stats started being recorded, the highest percentage of the population actively in the labor force was never above 7 in 10.

Now consider this: after the 2008 downturn, essentially six million (6,000,000) workers straight up left the job rolls, and the largest sub-section of those six million was men aged 25-54 — i.e. men in their peak-earning years:

Where Did Jobs Go

You can read this a couple…

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Insights on Maximizing and Communicating the Business Value of IT

Today, I published my insights about the breakout session I organized for the 2014 MIT CIO Symposium. Here’s the panel description:

Tomorrow’s Digital Enterprise depends on today’s ability to innovate. Yet in many organizations the CIO is not perceived, either rightly or wrongly, as an innovator; IT spends too much on keeping the lights on and lacks the agility to move at the speed of the business. How can CIOs use transparency to create a more business-focused culture in IT? And how can IT executives use facts and metrics to encourage value-oriented conversations with their business partners? This panel will share their experiences in using transparency to speed decision making, collaborate on tradeoffs to improve value, and find ways to fund and govern business investments in innovation.

Originally posted on: MIT Sloan CIO Symposium, Insights on Maximizing and Communicating the Business Value of IT

One of the afternoon breakouts of the 2014 MIT Sloan CIO Symposium focused on “Maximizing and Communicating the Business Value of IT” (view complete video of panel). The moderator, Chip Gliedman, VP and Principle Analyst, Forrester Research, led the panel through a discussion on how CIOs deliver and measure value in the modern digital enterprise.

In addition to Chip panelists included Brook Colangelo, SVP & CIO, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Harry Moseley, CIO and Managing Director, KPMG LLP, Martyn Wiltshire, Director of Strategic IT Initiatives, SanDisk Corporation, and Todd Tucker, Research Director, Technology Business Management (TBM) Council.

For years, IT organizations have worked to optimize technology and deliver the best value for the money. Today IT is at an inflection point: disruptive innovations, such as social and mobile computing, are creating new opportunities and challenges for CIOs. As the IT landscape shifts from effectiveness and efficiency to customer engagement and business partnership, CIOs are being forced to reconsider the mission of IT. What is “value” in the digital era and how is it measured?

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View Video Recording of the session


ACS CIO Hangout – Episode 7: Cloud Services

This post from David J. Hinson, about cloud in higher education, makes a good follow-up to one of my recent posts: Technology’s impact on education and learning (


A panel of technologists and CIOs from the Associated Colleges of the South, discussing Technology, Tools, and Tactics.

Fred Zapata from Trinity, Fred Miller from Furman, Pamela McQuesten from Southwestern, and David Hinson from Hendrix discuss Cloud Services – what they are, how they are being used, and what they mean for the future prospects of campus information technology services.

Testing service, which is similar to the audio service.

This is a 10 minute excerpt, from the Full Podcast found here.

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The Clearest Trend in the American Workforce Is Not an Encouraging One


To answer Andrew McAfee’s question (at the end of his post), no I don’t see the labor participation rate rising anytime soon. McAfee argues here that “progress in all things digital” is contributing to the decline in the labor force participation rate. Why should we care? The Wonkblog post that McAfee references answers this question:

To put this in perspective: If the same percentage of adults were in the workforce today as when Barack Obama took office, the unemployment rate would be 10.8 percent.

If you watched the video that Martin Ford shared on his blog, then you should also read McAfee’s post.

Originally posted on: Andrew McAfee’s Blog | The Clearest Trend in the American Workforce Is Not an Encouraging One

It’s been a while since I posted data on US employment trends, so here’s a chart created with FRED’s snazzy new graphing interface. It shows the employment rate (in other words, 100 – the standard unemployment rate) in blue, the employment-to-population ratio (the % of working-age people with work) in green, and the labor force participation rate (the percent of working-age people who have work or are actively looking for it) in red.

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The Robot Revolution and Jobs: “Humans Need Not Apply”

This post by Martin Ford talks about the impact of automation on our economy. This is a topic I’ve discussed in previous posts, and this is a good update. I echo Martin Ford’s recommendation that anyone interested in the subject watch the 15 minute video by C.G.P. Grey (short commercial will play first).

Martin Ford

It has been about five years since the publication of my 2009 book The Lights in the Tunnel: Automation, Accelerating Technology and the Economy of the Future, which argued that we are on the brink of a revolution in robotics and artificial intelligence that would put millions of jobs at risk—and quite possibly threaten our overall economic prosperity.  Over the next few years, I followed up with a series of posts both here and at Huffington Post, warning of a future unemployment crisis, the potential automation of low-wage fast food jobs as well as the higher-skill white collar jobs sought by college graduates, and the negative economic consequences of widespread automation.

For most of the five years that I have been writing on this subject, I’ve been a relatively lonely voice; the attention of both the public and economists has been focused elsewhere. Over the the past year or so…

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Technology’s impact on education and learning

Earlier this month, I published a new post on IBM’s Thoughts on Cloud blog, “Five ways cloud is enhancing higher education.” In summary, the five points I discussed are how cloud technology can be used for:

  1. Streamlining operations
  2. Improving student productivity, conferencing and collaboration
  3. Extending the reach of higher education
  4. Enhancing and scaling delivery of course material
  5. Personalizing education and improving learning outcomes

If you read the post, you’ll see that cloud technology, combined with network, mobile, social and data analysis technologies, are driving the transformation. For readers of this blog, the Thoughts on Cloud post, especially point #3, updates the post I wrote here back in January 2013, “Can massive open online courses (MOOCs) help us change the world?” The short answer is that MOOCs have evolved quickly, but we still have a long way to go before they reach their full potential. Nevertheless, interest and optimism remain high, so I will continue to write about MOOCs as the story unfolds.

The emerging opportunities from the intersection of technology and education are exciting to me. In the 2013 IBM Global Technology Outlook (download available here), the education industry was said to be “at the brink of an IT-enabled transformation.” The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is funding research to explore the potential of MOOCs. I expect the next few years to bring an avalanche of academic research about using technology to transform education.

If you want to be inspired, and think about how people will learn in the future, watch this You Tube video – Megatrends in technology disrupting higher education – Optus Vision 2014. Professor Young, Pro Vice Chancellor, Learning & Teaching, Macquarie University, talks about technology’s impact on education in the short, medium and long term. The big takeaway for me is that we’ve only begun to imagine the possibilities. For a more detailed discussion, read the New Media Consortium (NMC) Horizon Report > 2014 Higher Education Edition.

Stay tuned: we live in exciting times.