As a young kid. I used to enjoy listening to the stories my great grandfather told about the journey his family took migrating from New France to the plains of Kansas, when he was a young boy about my age. He was in his 90s and sharp as a tack.
We were refugees of a sort, being French after the English victory in the Battle of Quebec in 1759, grandpa Joe and his parents traveled by wagon from the Montreal area to Kansas. There were still red hot embers in the air when they reached Chicago. His journey was on foot for most of the route. He was fascinated by the anthills on the prairie. I was fascinated by the realization that wagons and horses were his transportation when he was a kid, and at the time, we had automobiles, and airplanes.
As a blacksmith, grandpa Joe built school bus wagons in his shop. By the time we were sitting on the porch passing the time in the 1950’s, space was the new frontier, and UNIVAC was the latest and greatest computer.
The development and introduction of new technologies is not new. It’s what we humans do. The increasing pace and scope of technological change is also not new. It is breathtaking, but, nothing new.
My grandpa took all this change in stride. He shook his head and laughed a lot. These electronic calculating machines back then, were quite amazing. ENIAC, was a maze of wires. Programming the beast meant adjusting the wiring, something that was accomplished by a team of women, fondly known as “computers”. I suppose these ladies were the first victims of technological unemployment at the hands of computers. (Pun intended.)
Today, experts are theorizing about the obsolescence of humans (Technological Singularity), and there’s another related theory about an event horizon, described by Martin Ford (The Lights In The Tunnel) that would be a disaster for our economy and our way of life.
CBS recently did a 60 Minutes feature: March of The Machines which asked asked the question, “Are robots hurting job growth?”. In my opinion, that’s really not the most pertinent question. I say that, because I do not believe we have sufficient information about unemployment and job growth to do much more than guess at an answer. I believe, the question we should be concerned about is; Are we headed for the “tipping point” that Martin Ford described as the point when due to increased automation and the advance of technology, industries would no longer need to hire additional workers to meet demand, and would instead invest capital in more automation and mechanization.
Are we on the boulevard to oblivion?
Is there an exit to the continued prosperity expressway or does this road become the prosperity expressway just around the next bend?
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