Huffingtion Post (via 24/7 Wall Street) examines a serious problem facing working people: occupations that will no longer exist. As technology and processes improve, companies have been able to do away with people who perform tasks that can be automated.
The article cites the U.S. Postal Service as one example of a company that has been impacted by new systems. As more people use email and online systems for paying bills, there is less and less need for postal carriers and workers to process the mail. While this example is good, it does not address even more frightening scenarios for the job market.
What if businesses no longer needed to hire people to drive or wait tables? In the past few months, I’ve read articles that suggest that both of these occupations could go the way of the unicorn. Rather than have a waiter present the daily special and take orders, diners would make their choices on a tablet, and expeditors would bring the food/clear the tables. I don’t know if this system is practical given the waiter’s role in sales and customer service, but the system is plausible, especially for restaurants where service is less of an issue than price. I’ve also read articles that claim driving jobs will be gone by 2050 due to computerized vehicles. Imagine if all the people who held jobs as drivers and waiters were suddenly unemployed. I frequently criticize companies for paying low wages, but that is preferable to having an economy where machines do all the work.
What can we do? I don’t know. We can fight moving jobs to other countries through legal actions like tariffs and by economic nationalism (Made in the U.S.A.). I don’t know how you fight technology and progress. If a company can improve its business through innovation, it will do so. If it doesn’t, a competitor will do so. The problem of lost jobs (occupation extinction) is serious, and – like climate change – too many people are ignoring it.
[On Sundays, this blog explore topics outside the career world in “Sabbath.”]
Cold Weather and Climate Change
Aljazeera America has posted a great feature on cold weather and misunderstandings about climate change. Cold weather or hot weather in any one place does not mean that climate change is a myth or as some like to put it “just a theory.” Scientists study patterns over time. They also look at patterns across the world, especially at the North and South Poles. That evidence has been conclusive: the climate is changing and, year over year, the planet is growing warmer.
My biggest problem with climate change deniers is that they base their claims on limited evidence. They are not just denying climate change, but science and knowledge. There are similar debates about evolution. Science has established that life on earth evolved. Some people see this as a challenge to their faith and deny evidence produced by scientists who have studied the question for over 150 years.
Everyone has a write to hold an opinion. When that opinion is countered by facts, however, it should be taken as hollow thinking. The odd thing is that many Americans are more on the side of opinion than science, which does not bode well for the future.
A final point: To those who point to the cold weather in the U.S. as evidence against climate change, check out the weather in Australia, which Aljazeera calls “an unprecedented heat wave.”
[On Sundays, this blog looks beyond career in “Sabbath.”]
Rain, Rain, Go Away?
It might rain today. The key word is might. We’ve had some great weather in Chicago lately, sunny, warm, even hot at times. What we haven’t had is rain. Over the next week, high temperatures are expected to range from the low 80s to near 100. What isn’t predicted? Rain.
Last week I wrote about a frost that will affect fruit trees. That’s bad, but we’ve dealt with frosts in the past. I think what we’re seeing now is different and much worse. A frost affects us for one year. Prices go up and down. What if we have less precipitation or more erratic precipitation? That will change how we live – if we live.
A few weeks ago, farmers in the Midwest were predicting disaster if they didn’t get rain. It didn’t rain. While the media ignores this story, common sense says that we will literally pay for this “good weather.” Food prices have jumped over the last couple of years. Why? It’s harder to grow food. It costs more to irrigate fields when there is no rain. Farmers pay the price, and, then, like any business person, they pass the cost along to us.
For several years now, we’ve seen less snow during the winter. Or, when it does snow, we get hit by a blizzard, not a steady volume. The same can be said for rain. Storms now drop more water in a faster time, which doesn’t help plants grow because less moisture sinks into the ground. Water pools and then evaporates, which is only good for mosquitoes.
I’d say this is an important story, except very few people are talking about. We’ve been trained to accept changes in the climate as natural. We’ve been trained not to trust our eyes and memory. I don’t watch TV much anymore, but, a few weeks ago, during a baseball game, I saw a commercial from a group advocating for U.S. coal. The ad mocked the occupy movement and said that using coal was good for the country and good for jobs. Last year, BP produced commercials with happy, smiling people (actors?) from the Gulf states praising the company for all the good things it did in bringing the region back. It never mentioned that BP was involved in the Deep Horizon oil spill. They didn’t want us to remember that, so it’s time to write a new history.
I really don’t blame corporations, think tanks, or politicians for the failure to deal with climate change. I blame myself and my neighbors across the globe. We can see simple things: It’s not raining. Summers are hotter than they’ve ever been. Wildfires burn for weeks. Still, we do nothing. Most scientists have accepted global warming as a man-made problem. But we don’t listen to scientists anymore. They ask us to think. Commercials ask us to obey, and we in the land of the free are much better at obeying than thinking.
Why don’t we ask why it isn’t raining? Because it’s more fun to tweet about all things Kardashian. Because we have come to think of politics as a game with winners and losers. Because we have become consumers who buy instead of citizens who sacrifice. Most importantly, because we have become self-absorbed and selfish, seldom thinking about our neighbors or future generations. We will get the future we deserve, and I fear that it will be very ugly – and dry.