Speaker: Roger Kuperways, Ph.D, President Unicon Systems, Inc.

New York University
School of Continuing Education - Center for Career and Life Planning
Lecture to the NYU Faculty held on September 26th, 1996 - Based on article written for the New York times


New work habits for a radically changing world.

During the early 1900’s, 85% of our workers were in agriculture. Now agriculture involves less than 3% of the work force. In 1950, 73% of US employees worked in production or manufacturing. Now less than 15% do.

The Department of Labor estimates that by the year 2000 at least 44% of all workers will be in data services - for example, gathering, processing, retrieving, or analyzing information. Careers come and go. Jobs change. This is nothing new - it’s just happening far faster than ever before.



As recently as the 1960’s, almost ½ of all workers in the industrialized countries were involved in making or helping to make things. By the year 2000, however, no developed country will have more than 1/6 or 1/8 of its workforce in the traditional roles of making and moving goods. Already an estimated 2/3’s of U.S. employees work in the services sector, and "knowledge" is becoming our most important "product".

In 1991, for the first time ever, companies spent more money on computing and communications gear than the combined monies spent on industrial, mining, farm and construction equipment. This spending pattern offers hard proof that we have entered a new era. The Industrial Age has given way to the Information Age.

You’re in Paris, and you decide to use your American Express card. Getting credit approval involves a 46,000 mile journey over phones and computers. The job can be completed in 5 seconds.

Since 1983, the U.S. work world has added 25 million computers. The number of cellular telephone subscribers has jumped from zero in 1983 to 16 million by the end of 1993. Close to 19 million people now carry pagers, and almost 12 billion messages were left in voice mailboxes in 1993 alone. Since 1987, homes and offices have added 10 million fax machines, while E-mail addresses have increased by over 26 million.

Communication technology is radically changing the speed, direction, and amount of information flow, even as it alters work roles all across organizations. As a case in point, the number of secretaries is down 521,000 just since 1987.

Less than half the workforce in the industrial world will be holding conventional full-time jobs in organizations by the beginning of the 21st century. Those full-timers or insiders will be the new minority. Every year more and more people will be self-employed. Many will work temporary or part-time—sometimes because that’s the way they want it, sometimes because that’s all that is available.

There has been more information produced in the last 30 years than during the previous 5,000 years. A weekday edition of The New York Times contains more information than the average person was likely to come across in a lifetime during the 17th Century England. The information supply available to us doubles every 5 years.

ENIAC, commonly thought of as the first modern computer, was built in 1944. It took up more space than an 18-wheeler’s tractor trailer, weighed more than 17 Chevrolet Camaros, and consumed 140,000 watts of electricity. ENIAC could execute up to 5,000 basic arithmetic operations per second. One of today’s popular microprocessors, the 486, is built on a tiny piece of silicone about the size of a dime. It weighs less than a packet of Sweet’N Low, and uses less than 2 watts of electricity. A 486 can execute up to 54 million instructions per second.

The cost of computing power drops roughly 30% every year, and microchips are doubling in performance power every 18 months.

Happy Birthday Card that plays music when opened has more computer power than existed in the entire world before 1950.

The factory of the future will have only two employees, a man and a dog. The man will be there to feed the dog. The dog will be there to keep the man from touching the equipment.

Computer power is now 8,000 times less expensive than it was 30 years ago. If we had similar progress in the automotive technology, today you buy a Lexus for about $2. It would travel at the speed of sound, and go about 600 miles on a thimble of gas.

The United States’ contingent workforce – consisting of roughly 45 million temporaries, self-employed, part-timers, or consultants – has grown 75% since 1980. Going, if not yet gone, are the 9-5 workdays, lifetime jobs, predictable, hierarchical relationships, corporate culture security blankets, and, for a large and growing sector of the workforce, the workplace itself (replaced by a cybernetics "workspace").

Constant training, retraining, job-hopping, and even career-hopping, will become the norm.

Out of a hundred largest US companies at the beginning of the 1900’s only 16 are still in existence.