Alec Ross asserts that the sixth-graders he taught at Booker T. Washington Middle School in Baltimore are not that different from the presidents, prime ministers and CEOs he provides consulting work with today.
“Talent is universal but opportunity is not,” said Ross, the author of The New York Times bestselling book The Industries of the Future, former Senior Adviser for Innovation to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and a distinguished visiting fellow at Johns Hopkins University. “I wrote The Industries of the Future as a way to try to light a path to help more people understand the forces that are shaping our future.
“The story of 1995 to 2015, in significant measure, was the story of digitization, of the rise of the internet and all of the impact that that would have on us at work and at home,” Ross said. “The question that I became obsessed with is ‘what’s next’? If the internet is what shaped the world from 1995 to 2015, what is going to shape the world from 2016 to 2026?”
Ross and economist Anirban Basu, Chairman and CEO of Sage Policy Group, Inc., spoke at the Greater Baltimore Committee’s annual Economic Outlook Conference on October 17 at the Baltimore Marriott Inner Harbor at Camden Yards. More than 250 people attended the event, which focused on “Preparing for the Future Economy.”
Big data transforming business and industry
“Land was the raw material of the agricultural age; iron was the raw material of the industrial age; data is the raw material of the information age,” Ross said. “He who owned the land and controlled the land during the agricultural age had the economic power and the political power; he who owned the factories and controlled access to the natural resources during the industrial age had the economic power and had the political power; he or she who owned the data, controlled the data or can harvest meaning from data are those that are creating the industries and businesses of the future.”
The age of big data, while new, is moving at high-speed.
“Ninety percent of all of the data in existence has been produced in the last 24 months,” Ross said.
The industries that are going to be built and transformed by 2020 are not only those rooted in information and communication services, Ross said.
“The fields that are going to be most impacted next are those that haven’t yet been turned inside out by software,” Ross said. “We need to embrace the observation of Darwin within the context of our current economics in that it’s not the strongest among us who will survive or the most intelligent, but those most adaptable to change.”
Watch Alec Ross’ presentation followed by a question and answer session.
Maryland’s economic indicators
In his presentation, economist Anirban Basu highlighted Maryland’s economic performance, as compared to the rest of the United States, noting that Maryland ranks 18th for job growth in the country.
While job growth is reasonably strong in the state, household incomes are stronger.
“I’m not suggesting to you that everything is perfect, but who has the highest median household income in the country? It’s us,” Basu said.
However, Basu said Baltimore and the state can improve the way it markets itself to the rest of the country and should not shy away from doing so.
“We are the best untold story in America,” Basu said.
Basu also highlighted U.S. educational attainment by generation: Millennials are the generation with the highest percentage of completion of at least a bachelor’s degree, specifically Millennial women.
“I want you to note how educated Millennial women are,” Basu said. “A lot of this about attracting human capital is about attracting Millennial women.”
All of the states, with the exception of Delaware, that are the fastest growing for employment growth in the U.S. are associated with a major city with a strong reputation, Basu said. Maryland ranks 20th.
“The fact that Maryland performs so well, despite the fact that our largest city does not have the reputation that it ought to, is quite remarkable and tells us how much promise we have,” Basu said.
View photos from the GBC’s Economic Outlook Conference.