By: Dr. Adam Cohen
This story begins two economic eras ago with a steal driving man: John Henry. As legends go, John Henry was a powerful man, the strongest of them all, who could forge new railway tracks faster than any man alive. Then, one day, a formidable opponent came along, challenging John Henry’s legendary status. But unlike all the challengers before, this one was quiet unique; it was not human. The challenger was a newly designed steam engine, which, as the inventor claimed, could clear a railway tunnel faster than the any man on earth.
The contest attracted people from all around. Could man beat machine in cutting through a mountain? And then, on one cloudy day, John Henry and the puffing steam engine set off to prove who was the strongest of them all. As they began to cut into the rock, each exchanged as leader. John Henry pushed ahead in the beginning, clearing boulders with grunting force and shear command. Midway through the engine caught up, pulling in front of the legend. But John Henry, a man of great pride, would not loose, and on the last leg of the race pushed ahead, piercing through the last rock of the tunnel to reveal the light of the adjacent side. Man had won, but his victory marked the end and John Henry who collapsed in front of the mountain from exhaustion, dying as legend of a new era. This was the mark of the industrial revolution, an age of engines, machines, and coal driven industries. Manpower became factory lines and pick axes were converted into steal shovels.
Today we face a similar contest in the capacities of man, but this time it is the challenge between the human societies of the developed nations against the developing. As history would have it, the developed countries of the west like Western Europe, the United States, and Japan are facing economic instability from the pressing forces of developing nations around the world, especially those of China, Malaysia, and India. Outsourcing has left many jobless and empty as once thriving industries of technology and highly skilled, technical based professions are being exported to countries that require much less pay and an infinitely less amount of legal restrictions. What remains is a shell of an economy in the developed nations where the once economic-staple of technological sciences have been boxed up and shipped abroad.
With the loss of jobs, many have also found themselves at a loss of meaning and purpose in life as well. Once cornerstone markers of status, job identities have been stripped away from their beholders. The once prestigious professional titles like doctors, lawyers, IT technicians, and biochemists are now being given to low waged workers in China and India.
But this story does not have a bleak destiny. There is something hidden in the unwritten pages of the future that spell revolution for the western citizen. This revolution is the change towards creativity, spirituality, and holistic thinking. As the once technical based economies and their corporations of the west make their tactical shifts away from its western homestead and towards low paying employees and AI softwares, new opportunities are paving the way for blossoming creativity and integrative design. What was once suppressed as irrational and unproductive, creativity is becoming the most highly valued asset in the western workforce.
From fashion design to holistic wellness, creativity is integral to an age where excessive utilitarianism and obsolete rationality have become superfluous. This shift can be found in the lives of those who have lived through the era of reason and materialism; once obsessed over accumulation of material artefacts, many westerns have found that their over-abundant lives do not equal an over-abundance of meaning. In this disparity, the opportunity for a different way of living has presented itself, one where a daily schedule of meaningful life events have seeped their way into social values, overshadowing the once high-valued status symbols like cars, real-estate, and power. For the revolutionaries of the new age, a bright future in meaning, purpose, and creativity seems evident.
This is just the beginning of a story which marks a new era for humanity, one were economic wealth is more evenly distributed across the globe, where dynamics in innovation have become a human affair, and creativity a prospect of the shifting economy in the west. If you are not on board already, consider this: some of the highest paying jobs today, as a whole, are migrating from the technical specializations that predominated the last 50 years towards highly inventive and creative individuals who offer a new edge on the things that have become seemingly mundane. Whether you are interested in making a fortune or could care less, it is exciting to think that the future might be much more beautiful than we might have imagined. Perhaps now we are just experiencing the birthing pains of a new generation of creative, enlightened, and holistic thinking in a world where the logically bland will be migrate towards the expressively dynamic and spiritually whole.