WIP William Raduchel

The New Technology State: How do we address the downsides of a tech-driven economy?

A conversation with William J. Raduchel, tech pioneer and author of The New Technology State

In this episode of Work in Progress, I’m joined by William Raduchel, a pioneer in the tech industry and author of The New Technology State: How Our Digital Dreams Became Societal Nightmares – and What We Can Do About It.

Bill Raduchel has been fascinated with technology since he was at summer camp that was trying to get teenagers interested in a career in STEM.

“One of the things they did was show us a computer at the local Air Force base and it controlled the anti-aircraft missiles that defended the base. We walked into this room and there was a huge RCA tube-based computer. They made it play a song and flash a flag. As a 15-year-old, that was really exciting,” explains Raduchel.

“Then we got back to the campus and they actually had an IBM 1620, which if people know their computer history, that was the first-ever digital computer made with transistors. That’s when I first started programming. That’s 62 years ago.”

That life-changing experience led him to study chemical engineering at Michigan Technological University, then on to Michigan State University, where he got a B.A. in economics, and then to Harvard, where he got his Ph.D. in economics.

Raduchel’s mix of hands-on tech experience and understanding of the economics of tech served him well in his career, which has included executive roles at some of the biggest names in the field over the past 50-plus years, including Sun Microsystems and AOL, where he was chief technology officer.

He’s poured all that knowledge into his book The New Technology State, an examination of both the positives and negatives of constantly-changing technology on society and the workforce.

He shares some of what he’s learned in the book and here in the podcast.

“I wrote the book because I’m concerned. I think technology could bring us nothing but a wonderful future, but we got to manage it and we got to manage it well. And I think right now we’re not.”

“Technology can be really helpful and has been and can continue to be, but there’s a downside. So how do we limit that? I’m an economist by training and I believe that competition is the way you do that and by empowering people to speak with their dollars about where they do things.”

“AI (artificial intelligence) is really nothing new. It’s just a really enhanced form of algorithm. The ancients had algorithms. They weren’t very computationally complex, but Stonehenge is an algorithm to try to predict what’s going on because it mattered for agriculture and agriculture meant survival. So, AI is just an enormously more complicated form of algorithm.”

“The one thing I learned early on is the technology never takes away a job. It takes away part of a job. It eats away. And eventually, usually what would happen, you’d get a recession, people would then restructure and they would find that they had a lot of people who were not 100% employed, and they would find a way to restructure the jobs and some jobs would disappear. Until then, there were a lot of people who were working, but technology made their jobs easier. That’s going to go on, and it’s going to continue to go on.”

“I think we’ve taken the job pyramid and we keep grabbing it about halfway down and then pulling it toward the middle. We keep getting fewer and fewer great jobs at the top and a lot of jobs at the bottom. It isn’t necessarily the number of jobs particularly that goes away, but the quality of those jobs declines.”

“If you’re a worker, I think the message is the same as it’s been for a long time, which is you’ve got to be constantly worried about your employability. You can’t assume that you’re employable forever. And I ask, have we trained people to do this? Do we have structures to support them? I don’t know.”

Raduchel has a lot of provocative and, as he says, potentially unpopular solutions to the downsides of technology.

You can hear some of them here in the podcast, which you can listen to from this article or download wherever you get you podcasts.

The New Technology State is now available on Amazon at this link.

Episode 285: William Raduchel, author, The New Technology State
Host & Executive Producer: Ramona Schindelheim, Editor-in-Chief, WorkingNation
Producer: Larry Buhl
Executive Producers: Joan Lynch and Melissa Panzer
Theme Music: Composed by Lee Rosevere and licensed under CC by 4
Download the transcript for this podcast here.
You can check out all the other podcasts at this link: Work in Progress podcasts