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Dealing With the Great Stagnation

Author Tyler Cowen argues that the United States has "eaten all the low-hanging fruit," and that future prosperity isn't guaranteed, but new technologies like RFID could help.
By Mark Roberti
Someone born in, say, 1950 has not seen similarly dramatic advances in transportation, communications and manufacturing during his or her lifetime. Thus, Cowen argues, we have reached a technological plateau, and rapid growth will resume when a new level of technology advancement occurs. Much of the content and activity on the Internet is free, Cowen notes, suggesting that "more and more, 'production'—that word my fellow economists have been using for generations—has become interior to the human mind, rather than set on a factory floor."

In truth, I think Cowen might be shortchanging the value of computers and the Internet a bit. These days, it's possible to run factories remotely online, and to optimize systems and business processes to maximize productivity. That just wasn't possible before 1950. Computers connected via the Internet have also made the economy global. The car you drive and the plane in which you fly have parts made in dozens of countries, which means wages around the world can rise, creating greater prosperity for all.

In my view, radio frequency identification is the next stage of the computer revolution. Enabling IT systems to better manage everything mobile—which is presently being managed poorly—will lead to reduced waste in the supply chain, fewer lost or stolen assets, higher asset utilization rates and more. These benefits could significantly boost productivity, which would thus lead to greater prosperity.

Granted, this change might not be as significant as the transformation from shipping goods by train to transporting them via airplane—but technologies such as RFID will allow us to reach the fruit a bit higher up on the tree of prosperity.

Mark Roberti is the founder and editor of RFID Journal. If you would like to comment on this article, click on the link below. To read more of Mark's opinions, visit the RFID Journal Blog, the Editor's Note archive or RFID Connect.

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