I Will Write Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow

I Will Write Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow

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I Will Write Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow

"We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars." - Oscar Wilde

Life, I think, if we could map it out on some sort of cosmic parchment, would be a tapestry of paths taken, woven in on each other in a tangle resembling nothing if not a spider web. Somewhere in the midst of these interlocking and twisting trails of all the ways I've gone, the ways I've planned to go and the roads I have abandoned I managed to find two trends that form a frame for all the other twists and turns that may come. These two trends, two paths that I'm currently in the midst of walking, are the practical-and-mired-in- reality realm of economics and the freer, more creative area of writing. When it came to this paper, to actually taking both and projecting them into the future, I found myself coming up against one specific question. How on earth can I wrap the two of them together, meld them into something that stands as a unit? The answer that I found, for now at least, is that they cannot be melded; each is too firmly intent on standing on its own. But this doesn't mean that they do not coincide again and again from time to time. Each has its future, separate from the other, but neither precludes the other. Neither stands completely isolated from the other. Even with the advances of technology and the changing trends that the world is bringing to bear with a vengeance, there's still a phenomenon that allows for the coexistence of such different and yet inextricable fields. 'E pluribus unum'--that's the slogan, right? I think it applies, and perhaps more importantly, that it will continue to apply.

Economics, in the present is a hot topic for discussion. Everyone, from the attendant at the gas station to candidates for political office, has their opinions and theories about it all. Economics, in its simplest definition, is the study of human choices and decisions when unlimited wants meet limited or scarce resources. As far as I can tell, and as far as I've been told, we've yet to come up with a technology that eliminates this problem of scarcity, so it stands to reason that the field itself will exist in the coming decades. With that much established, little else is certain.

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Economics is a study of uncertainty, typically predicting how things will turn out and then explaining why they didn't turn out as planned. As an analyst (which I hope some day to be) it is imperative to keep an eye on the major trends that are pulling at the world.

The world is constantly in a state of flux, of dynamic movement, as Virginia Postrel alludes to in her book, The Future and its Enemies. Postrel also talks about different inclinations of people, naming stasists and dynamists as the two main opposing ideologies. Stasists resist change and do not easily accept the newer developments of the world, technologically, economically, culturally, etc. Dynamists hold the opposite view point, being strongly in favor of change and (hopefully) advancement over time. Realistically, the world changes whether we want it to do so or not; change is the one constant factor in life. For someone studying the economy to cleave to old ideas at the expense of not seeing where the world is going would be a great mistake. Because of the dynamic and ever-evolving nature of the economy, international relations and trade, someone studying economics must be ready to change ideas, viewpoints and strategies to keep up with the world. That said, the next step is trying to identify what sort of changes are in store; just because you have to be ready to roll with the punches, doesn't mean you shouldn't have an idea of the boxing technique to begin with.

There are as many theories about the future of economics and the world economy as there are stars in the sky. Over the course of the semester, several have been presented, but the two that seem to stand out the most are those of Peter Schwartz and his compatriots in the book, The Long Boom, and that of Jeremy Rifkin in his book, The End of Work. The irony is that these two different views are almost entirely at opposing ends of the spectrum, with Schwartz playing hopeful optimist and Rifkin a much more pessimistic and warning theorist. The two major areas that threaten to shake the future foundation of the economic world are the advancement of technology and the globalization of this little place we call Earth.

In his scenario of how things could go ideally, Peter Schwartz outlines the form of an almost paradise brought about by the advent of technology. This ideal includes economic prosperity, cultural harmony, and technologically sound environmental and humanistic policies. Schwartz's "long boom" is a period that, according to him, will last for about 40 years, from 1980 -- 2020 (Schwartz 2). The time span allows for the continuation of technological development as well as the end of the "generation lag." Generation lag is the time it takes for "a fundamentally new technology to be fully adopted by a society" (Schwartz 24). Because of this lag time, in the coming years economic productivity will not reach the height of its potential; technology that people my age are familiar with may not yet have fully infiltrated the work place. This generation lag breeds many anomalies arise in the world of economics. That productivity paradox is only one of them. Because of the delay in complete assimilation, means of understanding and fully measuring advances are not yet perfected; those already in the field are operating in the way they were taught, using gauges that may not be applicable in the ever-changing world that is the economy today.

In addition to the full assimilation of technology, another looming specter of irreversible change is the trend towards economic globalization. The world of trade is opening quickly. The coming age is heralded as "The Age of Information." That's all well and good, but it does pose problems on a global level. Not all the nations of the world are on the same level at this point in time. Industrialized nations, while they hold most of the capital and wealth of the world, are few and far between when compared with the developing world. These nations, non-industrial and still relying on many forms of life that the industrial world has all but selectively forgotten, is not stepping seamlessly into this new age. Rather, there are steps along the way for them. Growth is shown as an imperative, rapid growth that advances each nation up a step. Technology is once more trumpeted as the herald that will bring even the destitute developing countries into that far-off dream of comfort and successful productivity. "All -- from the rich to the poor -- can see progress possible in their own lives" (Schwartz 56).

On the other side of the proverbial coin, technology, rather than lifting the world to a cloud-9 like state of being, could undermine the very foundation of economic structure that so much of the world is based on. Rifkin sees unbridled technology as something to fear and be wary about, something that could plunge the economy into a downfall that not even the most optimistic of voices could possibly slow. Rather than increasing productivity, technology could usurp the jobs of workers, displacing them permanently from a majority of current jobs (Rifkin 12). Whether or not this will spell disaster for the economic status of millions, or simply an increased amount of time that individuals are allowed to spend on leisure is the major question. In the past, technological advances have indeed disturbed the status quo, calling for government to take a role in the administration of economic policy while previously a more laissez-faire style of government involvement in economy was the norm (Rifkin 31). This particular wave of technological development, a Third Technological Revolution, according to some, will have a great impact on the world's economy in some way or another. It is a trend that cannot be ignored when considering the economic world and where exactly the place for those trained in economics will be.

Even the jobs that we fill will be greatly affected. Though Rifkin would thoroughly deny the ability of the service sector to generate jobs for those displaced by technology, most economists look to exactly that happening. "Labor-market forecasters believe that tomorrow's new jobs will increasingly be found in the service sector, particularly in work related to health, communications, and computers" (Paterson). This trend has already started taking place. In fact, "1956 was…the first year in which white-collar and service employees outnumbered blue-collar factory workers in the United States" (Toffler 41). Production is a limited field, and technology is further taking the place of much labor in the production sector of the economy. "…While land labor, raw materials and perhaps even capital can be regarded as finite resources, knowledge is for all intents inexhaustible" (Toffler 42). The continuing change of the economy from production-based to service and knowledge based will impact almost all areas of working and careers.

These viewpoints vary greatly, each presenting evidence to back up a prediction for the future. No one can actually say exactly what will happen in the days to come, but often times that is exactly what is required of economists. I hope to work as an analyst, and even though telling people what has happened is one of the major components of the job, more importantly is creating a forecast for what will happen. Economists must find patterns, notice subtle changes in what is going on, predict and advise on what will be the outcome of different decisions. Technology is both an asset and a threat to someone in this position, a tool and an unknown that throws off controlled experiments and observations. Additionally, considering the international world is imperative. Borders are becoming thinner and thinner in the world of business, in part due to changing technology. In addition to being familiar with this technology, one must possess some sensitivity to cultures and some knowledge of languages and customs. As Robert Levine points out in A Geography of Time, the idea of time and how it operates differs from country to country, from place to place. The eight lessons that he points out as indispensable for dealing with other cultures are all very important in the realm of international relations. Levine speaks of understanding "relative punctuality", the delineation between work and social time, the meaning of silences, and the expected and accepted order of doing things, among others (Levine 193-202).

Basically, it comes down to the fact that there are countless ways that the economic world could go, and I'll have to be ready for them. It's a matter of seeing patterns and being able to distinguish where they're going from where they're coming, to recognize old patterns and not close our eyes to new developments. That's the entire ballgame in the world of economic analysis, explaining today and predicting tomorrow.

Practicality and economics aside, a real passion of mine is writing, the written word itself, especially in a creative sense. Ever since I was a child I have been involved in writing poetry and short stories as well as starting but never quite finishing longer attempts at written creativity. I have always simply enjoyed it. This hasn't changed, nor do I expect it to. However, practically I realize that the field itself is a fickle one at best, that "making it" on writing alone is something quite difficult to do. Thus the large portion of this paper dedicated towards economics. Now, let me just state right off that writing, I understand, bridges the gaps between all subjects, that almost every profession out there uses it in some form. However, creative writing is another story entirely. This section of the paper will be shorter, because, as I see it, it is a little less complicated. Writing and the written word have held a place in culture and life since the days of the Phoenicians. Stories, songs, ballads and other such art forms existed before that. The mixture of these two that is creative writing is something that no one is willing to predict going anywhere. Trends change. What people want to read varies from one day to another, but stylistic changes are things that are incorporated often on an unconscious level. I sort of believe along the lines of what Brown and Duguid say in their book (in a chapter not assigned as reading). As someone who still harbors a dream of being published someday, the concept of technology, the Internet and its minions, "killing the book" is truly disheartening. However, as Brown and Duguid point out, this has not happened yet, and the trends would indicate that it's not going to occur (Brown 46). Rather, one of the first major vendors on the Internet was a bookstore. Oh the irony. New avenues for expression may be opened, but the world is not yet ready to phase out the tried and true paperback book.

Story telling, even in a nonfiction sense, in a professional environment serves a sacred-type purpose. The group of reps that were studied improved performance when they conveyed experience to their co-workers. This skill, communication, be it written or oral, is indispensable even in business, aside from the purer form of its existence. It's an intrinsic part of the human existence, though some feel its pull stronger than others. It's perhaps a bit dramatic a declaration, but within the introduction of This Business of Writing, a book by Gregg Levoy, a comparison is made between would-be writers and Scheherazade, teller of the tales of the 1001 Arabian Nights. "To endure a career as a writer, you must be driven by a quality of faith not unlike Scheherazade's -- the certainty that if you stop telling your stories, if you stop writing, you will die, or perhaps worse, your life will be bereft of meeting" (Levoy 5).

Levoy also advises the old and proven method of writing what you know, starting on familiar ground. For a future that's at best uncertain and volatile, this seems to be good advice. Though he speaks mostly about freelance writing and not specifically about creative writing, it still has its parallels, in my opinion. Another relevant point that Levoy brings up is the prospect of dealing with computers with writing, the pros and cons. According to him, it is a filing cabinet without the overflowing papers, an easier solution to editing and a convenient way to generate multiple copies of a piece of writing. Realistically, as nostalgic as writing with pen and paper, braving the war-torn realm of ink stains and white-out, eventually in today's world and in the world of the future, the computer does come into play. It may make it a bit inhuman at times, but it does have its conveniences.

Though themes and styles have always changed, poetry slipping from the once-severely structured framework to a point where free-verse and rhythm-rhyme pieces are all accepted as a part of the genre, and the themes and plots of novels changing, writing has always been a part of the human world. It's another thing that sets us apart from the other forms of life we walk amongst. It's an important thing, a creative outflow that will exist, perhaps in a slightly varied incarnation, to the ends of forever, as far as I can see. And I want to be a part of that.

When all is said in done, these particular paths in my life are ones I plan on walking to the end, no matter what those ends may be. Things may change, and new interests may develop. One of these paths is something I'm good at, something that interests me. The other is something I genuinely love. I think and hope that together they work out to be a good and workable balance in a personal as well as professional regard. I never know. I've said it before, but I'm in love with the journey, with the thought that tomorrow is something new and unexpected. Oh sure, I can plan for it, anticipate, work to counter, but the world is such that when you're expecting rain it's suddenly snowing. There's never any knowing what tomorrow will bring, only speculating, and that, is the real beauty of it, in the end.

References:

Levoy, Gregg. This Business of Writing. Cincinnati, Ohio: Writer's Digest Books, 1992.

Paterson, Jim. "Tomorrow's job titles" The Futurist. Washington. May/Jun 2002.

Toffler, Alvin & Heidi. Creating a New Civilization: The Politics of the Third Wave. Atlanta: Turner Publishing, Inc., 1994.

Class Readings Used:

Brown, John Seely & Paul Duguid. The Social Life of Information. Boston: Harvard Business School Press, 2000.

Levine, Robert. A Geography of Time. New York: Basic Books, 1997.

Rifkin, Jeremy. The End of Work. New York: GP Putnam's Sons, 1995.

Schwartz, Peter, Peter Layden & Joel Hyatt. The Long Boom. New York: Perseus Publishing, 1999.
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