Praxis Connection Review is an online journal that highlights collaboration, innovation, and impact through churches in NYC.
Tyler Cowen argues in his new book The Complacent Class: The Self-Defeating Quest for the American Dream, that Americans avoid change, and have become complacent and unwilling to take risks. He cites data on several indicators that America has become more complacent including statistics showing less innovation, fewer new ventures formed, and that people don't move as much as before. As things do seem to be shifting, he presents a compelling case. Technology is disrupting the way we live. Some have made life more convenient, and this too has led to the complacency Cowen articulates. It becomes easy to match our every preference so that we don't have to really experiment, try new things, or interact with different types of people. We can even stay in our tribes and only hear what those who share similar mindsets have to say.
The forces of technology that are driving our evolving digital, data, and automated economy have some critical implications for our future: our cities, the poor, our educational system, how we view our place in the world, and even how we view work itself. There is an active conversation about how automation will create an unemployed class. Imagine that you are a young person who thinks you're more likely to be unemployed long term than employed. If this is your future, why go to school, delay gratification, or act as a society would like you to? Why bother? And as the parent of a young person with this mindset, how do you effectively parent in that situation? Who makes these decisions anyway? Theology of Work?
The recent research of Dr. Daron Acemoglu & Pascual Restrepo that was cited in the New York Times found that robots accounted for 680,000 jobs being lost and that for every robot added to the workforce, 6.2 jobs are lost. In the book, The Wealth of Humans: Work, Power, and Status in the Twenty-first Century, author Ryan Avent compares today to the previous Industrial Revolution in which there were tremendous job displacement and social unrest. I believe he is right - this is no time to be complacent.
I'm not suggesting that we get rid of technology or create walls for us to have our own miniature economy and society cut off from the world. No, I believe that the church should be part of the conversation and engage the tech community about the impact on those who are already poor and marginalized. We should develop strategies to equip young people with the tech skills they will need to participate and thrive in the economy of the future, while insisting that all schools align to this new reality by incorporating a stronger emphasis on math, science, and technology. If we believe in a theology of work, then we need to make sure that everyone has the opportunity to acquire the skills to do so.
Since we were all created in the image of God, none of us are disposable. All have gifts, some more than others, but none more valued in the eyes of God. Who will make sure that those on the margins have a chance to thrive?
I was born totally deaf in my left ear and partially deaf in my right. It was not discovered right away. I fell behind in school. My parents got me tested and someone told my Mom that not everyone needs to go college as if she should not bother challenging me. She responded that I should have that chance and choice to decide for myself, so my parents challenged me to work hard, do my best, and never quit. I was fortunate. We need to make sure that our young people have the opportunity to gain the skills to participate in our new economy. I have been working with a group of leaders in our city on something called Code for Life that seeks to address some of these issues. Please take a look at the attached summary.
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