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Tom Dennis

Editor's note: The Age of Automation dawns

My Econ 101 text in college started off with a great idea: “12 Ideas for Beyond the Final Exam.” These were 12 insights from economics – externalities, opportunity cost and others – that students could count on using years later to help them make sense of the world.

I don’t have room for 12 takeaways from this issue of Prairie Business. But I do want to mention two, and the first one has to be this:

Expect the technological revolution to keep driving change.

A few years ago, a writer argued that we’re living through a Great Stagnation, a dramatic decrease in the rate of innovation.

I disagree. As I keep learning with every issue, the Age of Automation is ushering in changes like few we’ve ever seen.

Our story about automation in the construction industry makes this clear. The bottom line: Within the lifetimes of many reading this, robotic machinery likely will be building America’s roads, offices and homes.

The trends are clear, and they’re all pointing toward dramatic and continuing change.

Here’s another takeaway: The Midwest is a driver, not a hanger-on. For example, the Bobcat Acceleration Center in Bismarck, N.D., is Doosan Bobcat’s North American center of R&D. If you visit, you’ll basically see state-of-the-art machines that are working without operators in them, said Joel Honeyman, Doosan Bobcat’s vice president of global innovation.

When Midwesterners learn how much research is taking place in our region, they’re usually surprised, Honeyman said. At Prairie Business, we’re trying to replace surprise with awareness of the region’s burgeoning creativity.