Average is over:

In the past, workers with average skills, doing an average job, could earn an average lifestyle. But, today, average is officially over. Being average just won’t earn you what it used to. It can’t when so many more employers have so much more access to so much more above average cheap foreign labor, cheap robotics, cheap software, cheap automation and cheap genius. Therefore, everyone needs to find their extra — their unique value contribution that makes them stand out in whatever is their field of employment. Average is over.

Yes, new technology has been eating jobs forever, and always will. As they say, if horses could have voted, there never would have been cars. But there’s been an acceleration. As Davidson notes, “In the 10 years ending in 2009, [U.S.] factories shed workers so fast that they erased almost all the gains of the previous 70 years; roughly one out of every three manufacturing jobs — about 6 million in total — disappeared.”

And you ain’t seen nothin’ yet. […]

And automation is not just coming to manufacturing, explains Curtis Carlson, the chief executive of SRI International, a Silicon Valley idea lab that invented the Apple iPhone program known as Siri, the digital personal assistant. “Siri is the beginning of a huge transformation in how we interact with banks, insurance companies, retail stores, health care providers, information retrieval services and product services.”

There will always be change — new jobs, new products, new services. But the one thing we know for sure is that with each advance in globalization and the I.T. revolution, the best jobs will require workers to have more and better education to make themselves above average. Here are the latest unemployment rates from the Bureau of Labor Statistics for Americans over 25 years old: those with less than a high school degree, 13.8 percent; those with a high school degree and no college, 8.7 percent; those with some college or associate degree, 7.7 percent; and those with bachelor’s degree or higher, 4.1 percent.

In a world where average is officially over, there are many things we need to do to buttress employment, but nothing would be more important than passing some kind of G.I. Bill for the 21st century that ensures that every American has access to post-high school education.

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/25/opinion/friedman-average-is-over.html

Cf. http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=3508698