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This article is from the In-Depth Report Future of Manufacturing
See Inside Scientific American Volume 308, Issue 5

The Short History of the Future of Manufacturing

The opportunity for advanced countries lies in building advanced tools needed to make more tools, and supplying the programming, finance, logistics and marketing required to intelligently manipulate matter. In this way, manufacturing will continue to pack more information and knowledge into less matter using less energy, making the world to order.

Jobs are constantly shifting and not always out of manufacturing. It used to be that farmers made their own fertilizer with dung and plowed land with their own animals. Today, fertilizers, tractors and fuel are made with manufacturing jobs that have displaced agricultural work. Even service jobs have moved into manufacturing. Penicillin destroyed thousands of jobs in Alpine sanatoria, to the delight of the sick. Accountants used to work with paper and pencil. And only yesterday, airline staff printed boarding passes at airport counters. Machines are eliminating these jobs. And these machines have to be made and programed by people too.

So I guess it is deja vu all over again, after all. Just as before, manufacturing will make more with less. It will pack more information and knowledge into less matter using less energy while making more effective products. Jobs will keep moving from manipulating matter to playing with information and ideas, as tasks will keep moving towards design, programming, finance, logistics, marketing, commerce and repairs and into making sure that this much deeper division of labor and tasks works smoothly. And as always, the future of manufacturing will just get better.

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