What it is: Changing technology impacts society by killing old jobs and creating new ones.
One of the strangest promises made by Donald Trump was his promise to bring back coal. The problem with coal is that it’s not dying because of environmental regulations but because it’s competing against cleaner and cheaper natural gas accessible through fracking. As long as we have fracking and natural gas, we don’t need as much coal and no amount of rolling back environmental legislation is going to save coal.
Naturally coal miners want everyone to use coal so they can keep their jobs. Then again, whalers would likely want everyone to go back to burning whale oil in lamps to bring back jobs in the whaling industry.
We might as well destroy all computers to bring back jobs in the typewriter manufacturing and repair industry. Perhaps we should also eliminate cars and go back to horse and buggies to bring back buggy whip manufacturing and buggy manufacturing back to this country.
The sad truth is that technology changes society for better or worse. To cling to the past guarantees failure. Currently auto workers are striking against General Motors. While their complaints are legitimate that the company is making profits while worker wages have not increased in the same amount as CEO pay, General Motors and auto workers are facing a dilemma.
First of all, fewer people are buying cars. Second, electric cars eliminate the complexity of combustion engines and transmissions. To build an electric car requires fewer parts and thus fewer workers than gas-powered vehicles.
This means that General Motors and auto workers are facing a future of selling fewer cars and requiring fewer workers to make them. For auto workers, that means fewer job opportunities that no amount of striking will ever bring back.
The future is not gasoline combustion engines any more than the future is landline telephones, fax machines, or slide rulers. The sooner people face this, the sooner they can prepare for inevitable change in the future. The longer they avoid dealing with reality, the more likely they’ll suffer when the future arrives right on time.
The best way to approach any job is to assume it’s going to be obsolete tomorrow. Assuming that, what will you do? Answering this question will prepare you far more than clinging to the past like coal miners or auto workers building combustion engines.
If you want to see the future, look to the past and see what happened to ice box manufacturers, film cameras, and tape cassettes. If you can’t see the future right in front of your eyes, you’ll be doomed to suffer the consequences and that’s sadly the fate of far too many people who simply refuse to acknowledge reality and cling to fantasy until it’s too late.