One of the biggest catalysts of change in the global economy has been the unleashing of the massive people power behind the borders of countries like China, India and even Russia. These massive pools of human resource combine two types of human potential that prior to their release on world markets were restricted to the respective economies of the countries that contained them. The large number of individuals and the potential for physical labor that they represent has allowed China and India in particular to leverage the low cost for physical labor in their borders to produce powerhouse manufacturing facilities for western corporations that were experiencing years of slowed growth under the increased cost load incurred by the much higher physical labor costs in their native western markets.
The redistribution of access to physical labor is behind the success of companies like Walmart and the explosion of the Chinese economy, at the same time the redistribution of mental labor allowed India to make massive inroads into the service based IT segments of western markets that could easily be exported and imported to achieve desired goals. This has forced individuals working in those markets to adjust their expectations regarding the potential for increased payment going into the future and also forced many to gain new expertise in order to avoid market obsolescence as their potential skills are exported to India where the same mental labor is done for a fraction of the cost charged in the western markets. As population increases, the per individual value of a unit of knowledge goes down since more individuals can have that knowledge, the lower value on the knowledge by virtue of its ubiquity in the market thus causes increased competition among the individuals for the buyers of the knowledge (ie. the corporations that hire the workers) this forces the individuals to look for ways to distinguish themselves in the market by acquiring new knowledge that is less ubiquitous and simultaneously more valuable to the knowledge buyers.
The individuals that are able to keep up their value relative to the needs of the knowledge buyers are the ones that succeed regardless the environment but this requires constant diligence to maintain an advantage through increased education to match the needs of the knowledge buyers. The greater the population of individuals seeking this edge the lower the value of the acquired knowledge regardless its uniqueness to the industry, and this necessitates an even faster consumption of unique knowledge to maintain a distinct advantage over the fellow knowledge consumers. (the people and potential employees) The key is unique education is more required for individuals the larger the population is, seeking the unique knowledge that is required by the local or global business environment becomes an increasingly important task. This spells out a diminishing return for the value of knowledge as population increases, it is interesting though to explore how we are able to acquire new knowledge and change our value relative to the needs of a market, that requires a bit of anthropological history.
History of brain evolution in early primates, the reasons it happened and what it gave us.
The history of our ability to acquire new information of the world and use that information to improve our ability to survive in it is an inheritance of the large brains that we possess. In particular the massive cortical hemispheres that sit on the more ancient and primitive regions of the brain provide the seat of reason and associative learning capabilities that have allowed us to inhabit every single habitat on this planet. In fact unlike any other species, we actively find pleasure in going to habitats that under normal circumstances we could not possibly survive in. The human desire to conquer environments led to the migration of our ancestors from their ancient African nascent lands in the rift valley to all the continents and most of the islands of the world in little under 100,000 years. This remarkable journey conducted over hundreds of generations highlights the amazing ability for our brains to experience, acquire, assimilate and adapt to environments and use our brains to synthesis the ability to survive and even thrive in regions of our choosing. The history of the large brains that allow this is a fascinating one, a story of accidents and happenstance. It all starts about 4.5 million years ago when our earliest homonid ancestors separated from the common ancestor that we share with the Pan Troglodytes (the Chimpanzee).
Approximately 4.5 million years ago the modern day rift valley that weaves it's way across more than 5 countries was a different place from what it is today, for one thing it was not a rift at all. Geological processes that have resulted in 4.5 million years in the present situation of western dense forests one one side of the rift and savanna and more arid climate on the eastern side of the rift were only just beginning to form. The processes slow and imperceptible would be the seed of the aforementioned separation from common ancestry with the chimps. Geology has shaped the speciation events of a significant number of species on our planet and was pivotal to the speciation event that led to the creation of the branch of hominid ancestors from which we are descended.
The reason there is a rift at all has to do with plate tectonics the slow process of geological creation, drift and destruction of the Earth's crust. 4.5 million years ago the African plate and the Indian plate to which it abuts, began to accelerate as they separated, going in two directions. This separation set the process of slow ecological drift first in the climate and then to the flora and fauna on both sides of what would become the "rift valley". As the separate populations of many ancestral common ancestors were separated on both sides of the forming rift, the selection pressures to conform to the increasingly divergent ecologies was impressed on the individuals over successive generations. By 4.5 million years ago this process yielded the first evidence of a distinct species of hominid from the previous common ancestor. The species has been dubbed Australopithecus Aferensis and forms the first ancestor in a line of homonids that lead directly to us. This species was found on the Eastern side of the rift, having been forced to adapt to drier conditions and different flora and fauna which also evolved to accommodate the new conditions. An interesting and fortunate consequence of the thinning out of the forests was the necessity for these ancestors to leave the safety of the forests, this requirement is theorized to have spurred several important events in our ancestors, first is the ability for upright locomotion. Primate locomotion on land is more efficient with a bipedal than a quadrupedal gait and so individuals who could employ bipedal locomotion tended to survive and reproduce. These changes led to the emergence of Homo Ergaster and Homo Habilis as intermediate forms then about 2 million years ago emerged Homo Erectus, the upright walking man. Along the way changes in diet led to the consumption of more protein in the form of insects, small rodents and scavenged kills of large savanna species like Lions. The formerly mostly herbivorous diet migrated to a more omnivorous one with a heavy helping of protein. Protein is a star in our story as it is the chief constituent of our most powerful organ, our brains. The switch over to a protein heavy diet lead to increased growth in the brain which manifested mostly in significantly large frontal cortex regions. Compared to previous ancestors the skulls became higher toward the front to accomodate the large amount of cortical brain matter. These regions of the brain we know now control critical aspects of mediation, planning, reward and consequence and social behavior.
These capabilities distinctly define our humanity and delineate how we are different from all other animals. They also allow us to mediate information stored in lower regions of the brain in ways that other animals can not. With the emergence of Homo Erectus and the arrival of a large pre frontal cortex came the flowering of social behaviors we uniquely identify with the human family. We began to adorn ourselves, we started to build tools rather than just use what was available, we buried our dead and along with the ability to plan came our desire to move across the land. Homo Erectus was the first Hominid species to leave Africa. It would later evolve in isolation in different environments in Europe into Homo Neanderthalensis but we aren't descended from them. Homo Erectus in the rift continued to evolve as the climate continued to apply a constant need to *adapt* to the roving bands of Erectus. This pressure was fortuitous for without it, the continued mental advances in brain size , social behavior and technological development would not have occurred. As the march of time neared 200,000 years ago our ancestors had again reached distinction in the species of Homo Sapien. His extensive migrations, along with re migrations periodically since then from Africa form the foundation of the modern populations that populate the world today. The story of our big thinking brain is one of adaptation under continuously changing conditions in the rift, these conditions spurred a change in diet which increased the brain size and gave us the advantages of planning, for thought, empathy and other tools of social interaction that make us distinct from other intelligent animals. We used our large brains to internalize the ability to modify our environment by creating or using tools, actively hunting instead of scavenging for food with those tools and planning to move our selves in search of optimal living environments across the globe. We maximized the value of the environment to us, and minimized the effects of environmental vagaries on our existence. This made our species more robust from such changes in an entirely new way, rather than be subject to the whims of our environment and the limited resources it presented, we could seek to shape our environment to the form we required. It was a revolution in the story of life on Earth. These capabilities are with us still today, unfortunately few individuals seek to reap the rewards of the gift of the large brains we have to maximize our value in the face of economic change.
Big brains to individuals, how they are useful and why most governments just don't get it.
Globalization has created a new paradigm in the annals of human competition for survival. Gone are the days of hunting on a day to day basis for survival for most of us. The massive populations of China and Asia stand poised to utilize the large brains that we have evolved to help us survive. As mentioned previously , being able to adapt locally to the requirements of business or industry allows us to increase our value relative to those businesses. We no longer have a direct life and death struggle but our ability to "survive" is tightly correlated to how we are able to use our brains to extract the most value from the local business climate. Unfortunately, most governments are oblivious to the importance of the natural resource that they all have in abundance, namely the brains and bodies of their people. An efficient use of these resources would require an assessment of the precise needs for industry and business through application of metrics, followed by tailor made programs of education that ensure the younger generations are trained to fill the roles that will be demand as forecast by the business and industry needs. Finally, the buyers(industry) and the sellers (the people) need to be brought together to satisfy the mutual demand. This simple process will maximize the usefulness of all that brain matter to a government, it will also ensure that each individual extracts maximized value from the base of knowledge that they've acquired and thus is able to provide a standard of living for themselves that allows them to prosper. This in turns livens the economy as these individuals exercise their spending power on the local economy and thus advance the economic position of their nation. Where internal supply and demand requirements are not met, governments can seek to outsource their supply of workers knowledge to outside countries where they are needed. This in fact is precisely what the Indians and Russians have been doing and what the Chinese are just getting into. Exportation of the human commodity has a unique advantage that comes with no other type of resource export. The value derived from a human is not fixed, as the investment of education is exercised in a working individual, the ties of that individual to a mother country invariably bind that individual to that country economically. Most people who have immigrated to western countries and found success, export money back to their native lands. This livens those economies. Mexico stands as a easy example, which takes in billions of dollars of US funds from the remittances of individuals who have immigrated to the United States. The power of these receipts to expand an economy or provide for wiggle room during down times can not be down played. Unfortunately, the United States has been slow to embrace the importance of educating its most important resource, its people, rather than focus on education as the primary focus, it has attempted to restrict access to its economy or to apply military might to gain or maintain access to resources that at best will only provide temporary economic reprieve and then only to a small subset of the American people. Thus the answer is clear, America needs to radically change how it approaches the idea of competing in the new globalized economy and the answer lies in education.
How you can increase your value by feeding your brain
To the individual the problem is clear, an increasingly globalized economy. Domestic corporations seeking endless profits are forced to outsource as much of their operating costs to the places where the necessary services and or goods are cost effective. The trend is inexorable and will lead to an equalization of the global value of individuals across disparate markets in different countries. Already the price of labor in China has significantly affected the standard of living of Americans in middle America. Americans , and all humans can fight the trend by analyzing their skills, analyzing the requirements of their local area or even global area, acquire the skills that will give them the knowledge necessary to have value in those areas and then marketing their skills to the buyers where ever they may be. Your greatest asset is the higher cortical functioning that you have in your mind, only by feeding it knowledge that is relevant to the needs expressed somewhere on Earth can you increase your value relative to those requirements. Knowledge is the only thing that I am aware of that can be ingested constantly by humans without us suffering adverse effects. Unlike other things in which moderation is key, knowledge helps us the more of it we have. When we focus our acquisition practices to match the needs of our local or global environment we make ourselves more robust in the constantly changing economic conditions of a rapidly globalizing economy.