Give Me Something Tangible: Something I Can See

     I have been busy harvesting corn over the last few weeks.  Over and over again, I head down 6 rows of corn in what seems in never-ending quest to get done.  One thing I’m very keen on is cutting harvest losses.  That means setting the corn head properly along with the cylinder speed as well as the concave width.  Nothing is perfect, but you do the best you can.  I’m creating some real value with my corn this year.  It leaves my farm and the economic multiplier from that surely supports many jobs in the agricultural community.  Ditto across North America.

It just so happens that while I drive that combine I am constantly listening to economic and finance news.  Yes, I like to hear the rumble of the combine especially when I do soybeans in case something goes wrong.  Every combine driver knows what it’s like to hear the rhythm and sounds of a wide-open combine harvester.  So I have one side of some noise canceling headphones hooked into a satellite radio with the other ear open to the sound.  Needless to say, by the end of the day I know every nuance of the daily pulse of the global economy.

Increasingly that news is full of new developments in the new economy that has everything to do with technology and not a lot with producing real useful things.  Case in point was today where the economic news was dominated by the release of Apple earnings as well as Microsoft’s announcement of its new operating system, Windows 8.  That’s big news for those of you involved in the stock market with investment dollars looking for home.  Wait 5 minutes and you will hear about Facebook shares and somebody wanting to monetize social media to make more money.

I listen intently because as many of you know I am a technology geek.  I have been for over 30 years, 1st delving into computers in the late 1970s and early 1980s.  So when I hear about the new mini iPad or something new about the android operating system it piques my interest.

Just in case you are wondering, I do not have an iPad stuck to the window of my combine with my twitter feed going.  However, I have friends that do and I have a deep appreciation for those in agriculture who have embraced the mobile technology and applied it to their farm.  I have done enough of that, but increasingly as I consider all the news about technology, social media and computers, I think we’re missing something.  Key to creating greater economic wealth in Canada is to be good at producing something tangible, something the world wants and something that spawns economic creativity and jobs.  Sometimes as I drive my combine to the field, actually doing something, I think that means so much more than the new Windows 8 being all about touching and swiping.

A few years ago a friend of mine told me that he had a colleague who was doing his PhD in computer science.  He said that his colleague felt that computer science had hit a wall, that smaller and faster processing simply did not do it anymore.  What he was intimating was that computer science needed to leap forward in order to give greater economic benefit to society.  As it is now, we’re spinning our wheels.

I have never forgot that statement, because in many ways I find that some of this new computer technology is passing me by. I just don’t find it very useful and tangible to my daily life.  I mean how many iPads, mini iPads and Android tablets do I need?  Are the plethora of “devices” which have become an appendage for so many people really making us smarter?  When you add Facebook and Twitter to the mix, does it get better? Or is it just me?

I say that honestly because I don’t have a smart phone or yield monitor, which helps many of us in our farm fields.  However, I am well aware of the yield monitors showing glimpses of 300 bushel per acre corn this fall.  To me, it’s just a tease.  I just add up the weigh tickets at the end of the day.

This is not a condemnation on new technology.  In agriculture, you can make an argument that it is our lifeblood.  We are constantly looking for new varieties, better fertilizer and new ways of innovating.  If somebody within agriculture finds a way to monetize Facebook content with new app on their mini iPad, I guess that’s a good thing.  Needless to say, some of this new reality is passing me by.  Give me something tangible that I can see.  Luckily, when I drive my combine, it’s right in front of me, real, tangible and something you can take to the bank.