UNIT 7 Conference
Integrated Skills Development
Passage The Knowledge Economy Is Coming
Human society has developed through several stages. Sociologist Daniel Bell calls these stages "pre-industrial," "industrial," and "post-industrial". According to Bell, the economy of the pre-industrial society included agriculture, mining, fishing, lumber, oil, and gas. Natural power produced these resources. Such power included wind power, water power, and the muscle power of people and animals. This economy depended on people who worked with their hands. In the next stage, industrial society, people made things by using machines. These machines used new forms of energy such as electricity. The industrial economy employed engineers and semi-skilled workers. The last stage, the post-industrial economy, results from a shift away from the production of goods to the production of services. They include the transportation of people and goods; utilities such as water and power supplies; financial services such as banks, trade, insurance, and real estate; and human services such as health, education, research, government, and recreation. The main resource of this economy is knowledge. Scientists, technologists, and other professionals use and process this knowledge.
Today's economy still depends on the same major industries that were important in the past. The agriculture, steel, and automobile industries are some of the giants that have led economic expansion. However, these industries are now becoming economically less important. They will probably not continue to grow and expand.
Agriculture is a clear example of an important industry that is getting smaller. In 1860, 40.6% of the U.S. labor force worked in agriculture, but this figure was only 2.1 percent in 1980. The auto industry, which is still growing, will soon reach its limits and start to get smaller too.
What are the new knowledge-based industries on which economic growth will depend? Peter Drucker, a well-known management expert, discusses three categories of such industries. The first of these is the information industry. This industry collects, stores, spreads, and applies knowledge. It depends on the computer. Another source of new industries is the science of the oceans. New technologies may help to supply food and minerals from the seas. A third new source of economic growth is the materials industry. This industry provides the materials for making objects. One such industry that has already become economically important is the plastics industry. Drucker explains that throughout history our traditional materials have been metals, glass, natural fibers, and paper. Today, with the help of modern science, industries can make many new materials to meet specific needs. Industries that supply traditional material such as steel or glass will have trouble competing with those that produce these new materials.
The traditional industrial economy, then, is changing into a knowledge economy in many ways. These changes are already affecting the kinds of work people do, the training they need to do it and the products they create. Clearly, society and the economy are facing a major discontinuity.
New Words and Expressions
n. & a. 巨人，巨物；巨大的
As an instructor, I try to lighten the stress of important exams by sticking in a lighthearted question at the end. Before Christmas break one year, the last question read: "Your instructor wishes you: (a) An enjoyable holiday; (b) A Happy New Year; (c) A restful vacation: (d) All of the above."
One of my students, correctly anticipating his low grade on the exam, added a choice of his own: "(e) Had studied more!"