I recently heard an intriguing lecture by columnist and author Thomas Friedman. He began by highlighting the rapid speed at which communication technology has revolutionized the economic landscape in just the past six years:

When I wrote The World is Flat [2004], Facebook didn’t exist, twitter was a sound, the cloud was in the sky, 4G was a parking space, applications were what you sent to college, linked-in was a prison, and Skype – for most people – was a typo. All of that has happened in six years.

In effect, the whole global curve is rising. What this is doing to the labor market is something that labor economists in their jargon speak of and describe as skills bias polarization. So skills bias polarization means that if you have critical thinking and reasoning skills, and can operate technology, if you are at the high end of the labour market, you’re going to be fine. If you are at the local end of the labor market — you’re a butcher, a baker, a candlestick maker — you’ll be fine. If you’re in the middle, you’re under more pressure now than ever before. You’re under more pressure now because bosses can automate your job more easily, they can outsource your job more easily, they can replace it with robots more easily, in this hyper-connected world. (Thomas Friedman, What went wrong with America? Recorded at the Melbourne Town HAll, July 29, 2011)

In economic terms, this global capacity to communicate instantly is a double-edged sword: it creates an exponential increase in creative opportunity–but that opportunity is also available to, literally, everyone on the planet now. Friedman highlights this point by citing a blog post by CEO John Jazwiec:

I am in the business of killing jobs. I kill jobs in three ways. I kill jobs when I sell, I kill jobs by killing competitors and I kill jobs by focusing on internal productivity.

All of the companies, I have been a CEO of, through best-in-practice services and software, eliminate jobs. They eliminate jobs by automation, outsourcing and efficiencies of process. The marketing is clear – less workers, more consistent output.

What is a sustainable job? The best way I can articulate, what is a sustainable job, is to tell you, as a job killer, jobs I can’t kill. I can’t kill creative people. There is no productivity solution or outsourcing that I can sell, to eliminate a creative person. I can’t kill unique value creators. A unique value creator is, well, unique. They might be someone with a relationship with a client. They might be someone who is a great salesmen. They might be someone who has spent so much time mastering a market, that they are subject matter experts, and I know technology or outsourcing can’t be built profitably to eliminate a single unique job. (John Jazwiec, Speaking Of Unemployment – I Am A Serial Job Killer, 06/12/2011)

Thomas Friedman then continues to offer three “mindsets” we ought to adopt moving forward:

Think like an immigrant. Think like an artisan. Think like a waitress. Those are my three pieces of advice for my kids.

Every American worker today should think of himself as an immigrant. What does it mean to think like an immigrant? Its means approaching the world with the view that nothing is owed you, nothing is given, that you have to make it on your own. There is no legacy slot waiting for you at Harvard, or the family firm, or anywhere else. You’ve got to go out and earn or create your place in the world. And you have to pay very close attention to the world in which you are living. That’s what immigrants do.

Everyone should also think of themselves as an artisan. That’s the argument of Professor Lawrence Katz at Harvard. He’s a labor economist. Larry argues “artisan” was the term used before the advent of mass manufacturing to describe people who made things or provided services with a distinctive touch and flare in which they took personal pride (which was almost everyone prior to the industrial revolution). The shoemaker, the doctor, the dress-maker, the saddle-maker — artisans gave such a personal touch to whatever they did they often carved their own initials in somewhere. They lived in a world where they were all defined by their ‘extra’. Again, it’s a good mindset to have for whatever job you are doing: would you want to put your initials on it when it’s done?

Finally: think like a waitress. So in August 2010 I was back in Minneapolis, my home town, having breakfast at the Perkins Pancake House with my best friend Ken Grere. It was seven in the morning and he ordered two scrambled eggs and fruit, and I ordered two scrambled eggs and three buttermilk pancakes. The waitress came, put down our plates, and all she said to Ken was, “I gave you extra fruit.” She got a fifty percent tip from us, because she didn’t control much, but she controlled the fruit ladle, that was her ‘extra’.

So whether you are the waitress or the artisan or the new immigrant, all of us have got to think, “What is the ‘extra’ we can bring to what we do?”

The most effective delusion is the one which holds you captive to the illusion of your own freedom. For if your freedom depends on a certain belief, ideology, device, or lifestyle — if you can’t truly be free without it — then are you not actually a prisoner to it?

Today: Seek every opportunity to second guess the things that give you “freedom” — for unbeknownst to many, the things that claim to bring liberation are often nothing but the clever disguises of captivity.

I am a hardcore, fundamentalist moderate.

You will not deter me from constantly, tenaciously, and assertively seeking the middle way. The bulwark of my conviction is the pursuit of understanding: I shall never be persuaded to listen to one side at the cost of shutting out the other completely.

My choices, decisions and convictions are works in progress. The jury of my mind stays in habitual deliberation. I move forward with agendas to affect change in the world with the belief that acting, learning, reevaluating and transforming are interdependently inseparable.

The more committed I am to being a moderate, the more skeptical I also become of my own totalizing worldview — of moderation itself — and the more apt I am to question my own presuppositions, assumptions and perspectives.

I am a hardcore, fundamentalist moderate… at least I am today.

Standing for moderation means standing against extremism. The antagonistic forces to moderatism are ideologies which demand conversion and suppress the understanding the other on their own terms.

But compromise is not an option. It is the only way.

It is sheer hypocrisy to seek to “convert” people to “becoming” a “moderate” as if it is itself a kind of religion or sect.

True “moderation” simply seeks only to inspire a greater understanding of others — not to “deconvert”, circumvent or dethrone any particular belief system.

Thus, the creed of the dogmatic moderate: I commit to understanding others, and influencing as many people as I can to do likewise. Every person, of any creed, philosophy or religion can be a dogmatic moderate, for every person has the option of choosing to learn from those who believe and think differently.

It was back in 1971 that Herbert Simon suggested that “a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention” and now the difficulty of capturing people’s attention (“a highly perishable commodity“) has some theorists suggesting that the future “attention economy” will have “its own different implicit rules, roles, cycles, values, etc.

If everyone has everyone’s attention the value of attention is nullified. Thus to avoid mental bankruptcy, navigating an “attention economy” means saving, investing and being cunningly conscientious of your own attention.

If you treated your attention as a monetary value, would you be considered broke, middle class or well-invested?

We often underestimate the trust that is associated with blogging. When I subscribe to a blog I am virtually inviting someone else (perhaps a rather talkative person) to make an apartment adjacent to the living room of my mind. Every time I check a blog or browse through RSS channels I am performing a wager of trust, banking on the author’s resolve to share things worth sharing.

Every post, every update, every act of “publishing” online is an act of trust-building or trust-breaking.

As with any form of human expression, there are times when the interests and intents of the consumer simply do not align with those of the creator. In this case, it may not be an issue of “trust broken” as much as it a flirtatious literary partnership that was just never meant to get serious. And this is fine. In fact, we’d be better off if we were more promiscuous readers from time to time. (There’s nothing wrong with a one-post stand; a fiery one-off that is so intense you can’t remember the author’s name in the morning.)

Regardless of the metaphor we choose for our readers, it falls upon the authors, I believe, to make the first moves to towards a committed relationship. There are some topics that are simply not good for discussion on a first date — especially things like running commentaries on minutiae void of consequence. Readers, like eligible suitors, tend to be put off by desperate, insecure ramblings that amount to little more than pleas for attention.

In summation: blog for others as you would have others blog for you.