The Third Economic Revolution — Boom or Bust for America?

Andy Stern – Georgetown Public Policy Institute  and Former President, SEIU

Posted: February 2, 2011 08:53 AM

Last Thursday the leaders of the Senate, in contrast to President Obama’s State of the Union speech, reached an agreement on rule changes which shows again that they may be able historians, but they fail miserably as futurists and leaders of change.

Sadly, this is simply the latest in a series of American leaders failing to choose to change and maybe make history, preferring to stick to the status quo and threatening to turn American competitiveness into ancient history.

In 2005, I wrote about the need for change at this moment of economic inflection in my book, A Country That Works–Getting America Back on Track. I was reminded during President Obama’s State of the Union address how many of my own observations about the future were embodied in his speech.

My book’s premise was simple — our country, joined by the rest of the world, is living through the most profound, the most significant, and the most transformative economic revolution in the history of the world.

And where the first economic revolution — the agricultural revolution — took 3,000 years, and the industrial revolution 300 years, this third economic revolution will take only 30 years. As the President reminded us, “In a single generation revolutions in technology have transformed the way we live, work, and do business.”

I wrote in 2005 “…that America cannot confront the challenges we’re facing with constituency groups operating in separate silos or like-minded individuals failing to combine their voices. Our country’s failure to break loose from conventional wisdom and embrace the future is the biggest threat we face“, or as the President said, “The future is ours to win.”

I even called out my own Sputnik moment, “In 1957, Americans were shocked to discover that the Soviet Union had successfully launched the world’s first satellite into space…Our country responded to the news with a patriotic effort to join the Soviets in space by launching Explorer I and creating NASA.”