While it has taken only 30 or so years to move from an industrial economy to the knowledge economy, the change to an industrialized world was not as fast as one might think. It took a long time for James Watt’s steam engine to catch on so that the move from a cottage style workplace to a modern industrial society took 100 years from about 1800 to finally reach fruition. The biggest change occurred because productivity increases depended much more on efficiently organizing processes than it did on individual skills. As opposed to the handicraft tradition of apprentices, with efficient production processes, one could take a relatively unskilled individual and turn him or her into a productive worker in a relatively short period of time. It also meant that since dexterity and small hands became important in a mechanized environment, early mills could profit from the employment of relatively inexpensive women and children.
Perhaps this is why we are leaving so many people behind in the move towards a knowledge economy. Our change is coming at a much faster pace while the transition to highly skilled knowledge work is very complex and time consuming.