A new year brings many new things. New hopes. New aspirations. New pursuits to do something you’ve always wanted to do. It is a brand new canvas just waiting for an artist to give it that first splash of paint to bring a picture to life. So it is for us at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation.
The Forum is the U.S. Chamber’s new focal point to explore and research emerging issues impacting the future of the free enterprise system and the business community. Acting as a public policy think tank, it is the Forum’s job to learn more about these areas and not only better understand them but also hear from the diverse people that are driving them forward into the future.
In short—we have the coolest mission in the Chamber.
We’re going to places the Chamber hasn’t explored before. Along the way, we’re going to engage with different people and experiences and share what we learn.
We’re also going to be taking a closer look at things that merit a deeper dive while also zooming out to look toward the horizon ahead for business in lots of different areas.
Finally, we’re going to be forward leaning in our approach, with our eyes set squarely on the future and all of the questions, challenges, and possibilities that come with it.
To do that, we’re going to use some of the tools that we’ve built over the past two years to help us fulfill and share our mission.
Courtesy of Wonkblog, this is both an immensely sad chart and a hopeful one. Behind the masses left unemployed is a further group that’s left the labor force apparently for good. Our economy rests on these workers being engaged and productive, and yet all too often their potential is left to waste. But this may be changing. At the far right of the chart, you can see the proportion of individuals in the labor force going up. Whether this trend lasts will be a dominant issue over the next few years.
The Congressional Budget Office crafted this one chart that shows the entire federal government’s spending. What leaps out is how much healthcare is driving this train. If you want to know at one glance what will drive our entire spending debate for the next few years, you could do a lot worse than study this chart.
Now that we have survived the Mayan apocalypse, we are now ready to enter a new year. 2013 will undoubtedly have a number of surprises in store, but a few key trends are due to shape the New Year. Here then are a few predictions, compiled with Eduardo Arabu, of what will happen in 2013. You can say you read it here first.
Robots will be the talk of the town.
As Sam Grobart wrote in BloombergBusinessweek, “The robots are coming. Resistance is futile. From car factories to fulfillment warehouses, a single robot can now handle tasks that once took hundreds of man-hours to complete.”
Hand-in-hand with the robots will come challenging questions of exactly where the balance will be found between man and machine. The ideal result is a somewhat drawn out process where machines will take on more mundane work while we humans scale up our education in order to tackle more interesting tasks. What remains to be answered is whether, as MIT’s Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee posited, technology is moving too fast for us to adapt.
In Nick Schulz’s soon-to-be released research paper, “Agricultural Abundance: An American Innovation Story,” there are a number of quotes indicating a new and rightfully optimistic phase of America’s agricultural sector.
1. “We have transitioned in the United States from a nation that was concerned with food scarcity to one that must confront challenges that come with food abundance.”
Due to technological discovery and innovation, the American agricultural sector has turned around its productivity, even just in the past half-century. For example, farm output has increased by nearly 50% since the early 1980s.
2. Over time, while we produce increasing amounts of food, we need less land to farm, thereby reducing our ecological footprint.”
Newfound technologies have gradually increased agricultural output, while input levels have remained approximately constant. The advent of modern harvesters and planters especially has increased the efficiency of chemical and land use in farming.
3. “Innovation. Changes in organization. Research. These are the products of the entrepreneurial human will and imagination […] It is in this way that people can create resources of all kinds, to meet the needs of growing populations.”
The United States is the undisputed world leader in agricultural production today. Yet as we look toward the coming decades, we see that the agricultural sector faces a series of challenges, from new pests, pathogens, and invasive plants to the efficient use of water to growing safe and nutritious food under an ever-changing global environment.
Meeting these challenges requires a renewed commitment to research, innovation, and technological development in agriculture. Private industry will continue to play an important role in meeting these challenges in areas directly related to commercial developments and commodities. However, many of the developments necessary to meet these challenges are public goods and are not easily monetized. As such, these challenges require a strong public commitment to agricultural research, one that fosters a culture of innovation and excellence to address some of the greatest threats to America’s long term prosperity and security.