Two stories of our times may have passed nearly unnoticed in the Christmas Eve edition of The Washington Post. If you find yourself with a few quiet moments for reading, today or maybe tomorrow, I recommend the following from the 12-24-13 Post.
“Edward Snowden: I Already Won,” on Page One. It’s a long read, but it pulls the whole Snowden- NSA story together with some clarity.
And “How robots are stealing our jobs,” the chilling story in Economy & Business, page A13.
With politicians still promising to create “jobs, jobs, jobs” through the magic of economic growth — and naive people still buying the promise — the uprising of the robots remains almost a secret.
Let me whisper this in your ear: “In the competition for jobs with robots and “intelligent” computers, old fashioned human beings will lose. Pass it on.”
Maybe better not to think about it until tomorrow. With a heavy heart, I wish you a Merry Christmas.
— John Hayden
Sad but true. Robots don’t get sick; robots don’t require a paycheck or benefits; robots don’t get disgruntled; robots do the same mind-numbing tasks over and over and over… Self-operating elevators replaced the need for the old time elevator operator; computers and smart telephone systems are phasing out the need for secretaries. I’m sure we could come up with several other examples. It will only get worse. I’m not sure what the answer is; there may not be one.
ATMs replaced bank tellers. Computers plus copying machines plus the Internet replaced the skilled printing trade. Containerization of freight replaced longshoremen. The containers have to be moved by ships, railroads and trucks. But a modern freighter needs only a small crew, freight trains can be operated by a one-man crew. Computers and GPS will make self-driving trucks possible. The list goes on.
Yes – I am afraid you are correct. We live in a period of transition; how this will eventually shake out is difficult to predict, but I am not optimistic.