Dead Suit Walking and The Economy of Meaning

Mon, Apr 25, 2011


In an article titled Dead Suit Walking, Newsweek details how “powerful software programs replaced armies of financial officers, accountants, computer-chip designers (and) even lawyers,” thus documenting the pattern that I have mentioned in the Economy of Meaning, about automation that will slowly erode jobs in the information economy down to a few percent of the population.  And the problem is that most of these individuals, highly trained and capable and with years of productive life left, are searching for jobs in their old industries.  What is even worse is that President Obama’s council for jobs is also composed of individuals in the old economy, precisely the same individuals who are at the helm of the industrial and information economies, actively working to reduce the workforce.

What is needed here is–and I mean urgently needed–is a new map that shows the way forwards, helping us set goals and direction for work that will increasingly be only available in an economy focused on creating and sharing meaning.

Right away what is needed is meaning that helps individuals cope with the loss and devastation that they feel, what I call mediating physical existence.  This kind of work ranges from counseling, life and career coaching, seminars, talks, meditation workshops, writing, storytelling, music, songs and poetry, art, and other careers which have yet to be invented by the new Economy of Meaning workers.

Beyond coping individuals need to move into finding their purpose.  This area is at the present poorly developed with only a handful of books like What Color Is Your Parachute? Much more is needed for individuals to find their compass again and work is needed both for those recently out of work and for those who are in college now and looking at a bleak future.  We need guideposts, courses, seminars, and a path to allow individuals to dig deep inside themselves to define what drives them, what they feel passionate about, how it translates to work in the real world.  And I’m talking about doing this on a large scale, not just onesies and twosies that become exceptional headlines for newspapers, but in the hundreds of thousands and continuing for years to come.

Two other important points come to view here.  First, that other developing countries, though right now enjoying the fruits of rapid economic development will hit the exact same roadblocks in the near future and that American workers that have navigated this route will be in a position to export meaning to help such individuals transition.

The second is the need to learn how meaning making works which involves balancing right and left brain style thinking (I’m using these terms to mark linear and non-linear thinking), creativity, flow, meditation, and other skills necessary to succeed.

It is a painful transition but there is a way through provided we begin focusing on the correct way forward which starts by acknowledging that for most of us that old cushy information economy or industrial job is gone forever.  But this painful dark period does have a silver lining and should we successfully navigate through it we shall find ourselves, perhaps for the first time, truly living and working our passion.

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