Technology as a System: An Approach to Creating Jobs

auto plantSTEM Programs – Technology as a System

When public officials speak to the citizenry about “technology”—which isn’t often—they tend to speak primarily in amorphous terms of programmatic benefits of one or another technology cast-as-a-program—with claims of prosperity’s being “just around the corner” thrown in to interest the technologically-challenged among us (a seemingly large and still rapidly growing portion of us), interspersed with patriotic appeals and dire predictions, should funding for each particular program somehow not be found.

During this difficult—indeed protracted and difficult—time, we propose to reverse this approach. We suggest thinking bigger in scope and longer in time, by refocusing public discourse on particularities of systems of technologies, accounted for in life-cycle terms. We think that approaching the public in this way would both respectfully provide the coherence and the sense of imagination that the technologically savvy often find lacking in ad hoc formulations of the past, while also (hopefully, and through interpersonally sensitive learning) respectfully providing less technologically savvy among us the impetus to study harder and work smarter (“With all these opportunities, if you work and study hard, you really will be rewarded.”)—basically, by being given opportunity to restore the middle class.

We think that citizens will support education programs—especially so-called “STEM” programs—with their tax dollars, and that their doing so will lead investors to appreciate such support (at whatever level from national to local jurisdictions) as an indication of a jurisdiction’s citizens eagerly moving forward into the future, instead of haltingly backing into it. Ironically, by making business not-first in a jurisdiction, we hope to make that jurisdiction’s businesses second to none located in less forward-looking jurisdictions.

Here follows an example of our approach, which views automobile and transportation technology from the more holistic perspective described above; we chose automotive/transportation primarily for the widespread familiarity—our own and that of many people around us—have over the years developed with the terms we have used.

  • Technologies that get materials to the auto production “starting line”, including technologies that recycle “used” materials and (if feasible) whole components
  • Technologies that contribute to a vehicle’s functionality, operation, safety, reliability, etc.
  • Technologies that produce such components
  • Technologies that produce machines that produce components, and technologies that produce machines that produce such machines
  • Technologies that facilitate re-organization of overall processes required and/or made possible by new technologies
  • Technologies that facilitate management of all these elements of production, including quality assurance programs
  • Technologies that support operation of vehicles, including “access to operation” (for example: first “ownership”; then ownership or leasing; next..?)
  • Technologies that maintain & repair vehicles, and technologies that train people in using them
  • Technologies that facilitate education related to such technologies
  • Technologies that are either similar enough in substance or deep enough in concept that supporting them effectively supports any of the automotive technologies listed
  • Technologies that substitute for automobiles, including technologies that could support system transformation away from automobile to more efficient transportation systems.

letcherIn closing, we believe that some jurisdiction will adopt our program—quickly. That’s because “economies of agglomeration” limit the number of success stories to a small handful at any level of function or location. It has become a very cruel world out there, and latecomers are cruelly left out. Until a new economic order emerges, only the technologically aware have a chance to prosper. We hope our approach will help us to that end.

Robert A. Letcher, PhD

Robert A. Letcher, Ph.D describes himself as “an academic with a disability instead of a portfolio, a writer, and a Qigong practitioner who tries to help people learn”.


  1. says

    My father was a union leader/activist from the 30s till the early 70s. He hated the Taft-Hartley act and what it did to labor. We lived in AZ after 1952, brother was asthmatic, and it quickly after T-H had become a right-to-work state or what my father called a right-to-die-working-for-nothing state. Even there he lead a successful and growing union and a major strike in the Tucson area that got better wages, broke down segregation on the job, and solidified a union composed of White, Mexican-American, and Black workers, men and women. The chain that he lead the strike against had kept workers segregated by job areas and you can guess which group got the best jobs. After the strike any worker could move into a classification and work there. I was a high school junior/senior when this happened and I am still proud of hell of my mom and pop. My mom worked too and supported union work by my dad and during the strike she kept things going well at home. My dad was a victim of the McCarthy era witch hunts for his unionism and lost a job he had as a postal worker because he had helped organize the first letter carriers association local. I am proud of that, too. It was during the late 30s and a time of hard times. Earlier in the 30s he was part of an organizing cadre of workers at Safeway Markets that used goons to try to stop the organizing. I am union as I write, though retired.

    • Robert A. Letcher says

      dusty — one of the great thrills of writing for Dick and Sharon comes when what i write leads people to share their poignant personal experiences. Thank you for sharing your story with me and readers of my column. I have shared my personal stories as well, including my deep affection for my maternal grandfather, a bricklayer who lost all but the palm of one hand in a gruesome, pre-OSHA construction site accident. My proudest photo of me is as a four year-old walking, him home from work, holding onto his good hand. I figure that was when i started looking out for the working guy (who, now, may well not be working!).

      Anyway, that’s by way of personal reply to your comments. I’ll try to address the substance of your comments in a few days. bob

  2. says

    Since the time of Reagan the right has unleashed a class war against the working people of the US. The above proposals would help to get people back to work but beyond that we need more — we must level of the playing field so here are some ideas.

    Progressives and liberal democrats start a no-holds-barred “class war” against corporate America using the government, we still outnumber the rich, to establish: (A) A 30 hour week as the legally recognized work week in the US established in law. The new 30 hour week would receive the same pay rate for any position as the previous 40 hour level, effectively a 33% pay raise. Any work over 30 hours would have to be paid at the rate of double time the new rate for the job. (A2) The new labor laws would mandate an annual vacation for all workers of 20 days paid, no exceptions. (A3) The minimum wage would be raised to $12.80 per hour. (B) No more jobs could be moved outside of the US. Any company moving their operations outside the US border could not sell any products in the US and all levels of government in the US would be prohibited from buying from these companies. All business by American corporations off shore, including foreign commerce, would be taxed by the US. (C) Pass the legislation and establish a single payer health system for the US that covers all medical costs: medical and hospital, dental, optical, etc. (D) Tax all employers at a much steeper rate to input into Social Security and the new medical program. Move the FICA tax rate on employees to 9% from the current rate of near 7%. The new medical program would also require an employee levy at the rate of medicare. (E) Pass the Employee Free Choice Act so that unions could rebuild a base of well paid workers who can act as a force for social change for a better society. (F) Tax all income (bond interest, share dividends, profits, etc), not just wages, as taxable wages. Develop a wealth tax on individuals earning more than $100,000 per year or families earning more than $200,000 that is steeply progressive, 30% on the first $100,000 over the minimums and then 50% on the next $100,000 until 90% is collected on the amounts $500,000 over the minimum and then 90% of all else. These revenues would well provide the monies needed for a better society.
    And of course, bring the predatory wars to a halt that are being waged to benefit the military-industrial-financial-energy complex. The US would just have to buy the resources needed on the hallowed “market”.

    Of course these measures would just be a good start, but they would provide jobs, income, and benefits to make life livable for working people. The wealthy would still live higher on the hog, but they would contribute a lot more.

    • Robert A. Letcher says

      Dusty–I agree with all you said, after the first sentence. As my Uncle Charlie used to tell me, the class war you mentioned began a long time ago. Among other things, he told me that philosophers settle for understanding history, but he told me to do what i could to change it.

      That’s why i wrote what i did. i thought there might be ways to make it work. I would support your program, but that would make just two of us, hardly enough to get the program off the ground.

      Also, i have been writing an essay that traces the demise of ‘labor” to the Taft-Hartley Congress of the late-1940s. Uncle Charlie told me that when the unions lost the strikes of that period, they gave up the right to bargain over everything except wages, benefits, and working condition; “everything” includes product design, safety, etc. In the long run, what has proven to be more negatively impacting in the current crisis has been the reduced value to worker of actually understanding the products they make; that is, in winning the way they did, capitalists took away impetus for workers to study hard. As such, workers here have for years deprived themselves–almost to the point of bragging about it–of knowledge. Of course, because knowledge often is power, businesses were only too happy to not share what they knew with their workers. As a country, then, we “stupided” ourselves into a corner.

      Check out Thomas Geoghagen’s essay in March 2010 HARPER’S MAGAZINE. i hope to finish my essay on this topic in a couple of weeks. bob

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