On Sunday, the New York Times published article on advanced manufacturing. It's accurate enough, but the tone is very misleading.
It takes the tone "Wow, this is all new and different". The factory he describes fits the manufacturing environment I saw in Polaroid more than 20 years ago and all of the more recent times I worked in a factory. This is not new. This is an ongoing evolution. The Times, and most of the "educated" classes, are just out of touch with reality. Reality is now forcing itself on their willfull ignorance.
Over the past 20 years the US has remained the worlds largest manufacturing country, with manufacturing value add increasing by 60%. (Value add is the difference between incoming component cost and outgoing product sales, adjusted for inflation.) At the same time, overall employment has dropped over 30%. This is part of what advanced manufacturing means.
I found the sub-tone of the NYT rather annoying. It reads too much like "If we continue to improve manufacturing, what will all the inferior classes do far a living?".
The writer missed the reality of the factory workers' current jobs. Even back at Polaroid, the factory worker was expected to document activity and write reports, especially problem reports and improvement suggestions. Clarity, conciseness, accuracy, and completeness are very important. This is very similar to the job of a newspaper writer, but with the emphasis on dispassionate explanation rather than story telling.
The factory worker is also expected to be continually monitoring the systems, watching trends, working on statistics and experiment design, and evaluating changes. This is a level of mathematical skill considerably higher than that needed for most educators or newspaper writers.
The writer missed all that, and missed the fact that factory workers can do all this. The experience at Polaroid and elsewhere is that if you remove the class superiority attitudes of the educators, and teach what is needed, it's well within the ability of the factory workers. But a real change is needed in the attitudes of educators and politicians. They have to forget the old view of the factory as a Charlie Chaplin movie. They have to accept that liking to work with your hands and get dirty does not make you an inferior person. They have to teach the writing and math skills needed for a factory, even if that means learning a much higher level of math skills than is taught to school teachers.