Sunday, March 18, 2012

The Past vs The Future

I'm going to speak about the past in today's posting, but with a modern and hopefully thoughtful twist.
I have concerns - big concerns - about our future. Yes, this man of the past is thinking about the future.
What I am about to write is a generalized overview of the subject at hand and not an extensive report. I have a point to make here and I feel if I become too wordy my intentions for thought will not work as I hope it to.
First, let me take you back to, oh say, the later part of the 19th century and into the early part of the 20th, at the time of some of the new inventions and the industries they either created or helped in their expansion:
When Thomas Edison and his men were able to get an incandescent light bulb to not only light but to stay lit for hours and days, that sparked a whole new revolution. It took a couple of decades for homes and businesses to fully accept this phenomena, but when it did, millions caught the electric light fever.
This photometer was used by Edison to measure and compare the amount of light produced by light bulbs
And that created a whole new industry. For now not only did you need electric light and parts manufacturers, but manufacturers of wire as well. And electricians for installations. And power plants.
In fact, an entire new industry rose out of this invention from 1879.
Let's jump up nearly thirty years, to 1908. Henry Ford, who, by that time had been making automobiles for over 10 years, put into motion a plan for building a car for the everyday person, one that your average household could afford - the Model T.
The Model T changed not only America but the world. Because of his use (and perfection) of the assembly line, Model T's could be made quickly and cheaply, thus keeping the price very affordable, meaning nearly every family could now have an automobile.
Ford 1909 Model T
But, think of the changes that occurred due to the popularity of this particular car: the auto industry as a whole took off like a rocket; more auto plants were opened, calling for thousands of workers to build the horseless carriages. Thus, more factories were needed to make car parts, and the shipping industry grew greatly to deliver these parts. And because people, for the first time, were truly mobile, vacations became a very popular pastime. Gas stations popped up. Car repair shops popped up. And then new and improved roads needed to be built. Also, better roads and, eventually, freeways...all across the nation. With that came road repairs. Since folks were traveling farther and farther from their home, there was now a need for more motels and hotels, souvenir shops, even more gas stations, and more road improvements. Road maps became another popular business. Travel agencies, though around for over a hundred years previous, became a major trade. The advertising industry in magazines and especially on billboards along the roadside grew in leaps and bounds as well.
And then there were the tire manufacturers whose business grew with the auto industry.
When you think about it, except for a few exceptions, the automobile itself help to drive most of the 20th century.
In the entertainment world the phonograph and the moving pictures also grew within the first couple of decades of the 20th century. And here again another flourishing industry came about: making records - either cylinder or flat disc - with recorded music. Besides the musicians and singers there were the manufacturers of the recordings, recording studios, and, as the century moved on, need for attractive cover art for the record sleeves and holders. There were also distributors, sales representatives...
And record players/phonographs were needed. Over time, stereos came about.

Where the recording industry began: the original ipod
We haven't even covered the makers of the musical instruments; that industry grew immensely as well, especially with the rise of big band, country, and rock & roll. Now everyone wanted a trumpet, a bass, a drum, and, later, guitars and microphones, amplifiers...
And the movies...well, what else can be said about the movies? Set designers and builders, cameramen, script writers, actors, editors, advertising, and all of the other people that it takes to put a movie together.
And with the rise of recorded music and the movies the fan magazine took off in popularity, which needed writers, printers, paper, and distributors.

What about books? Authors, of course, but book binders, paper manufacturers, ink, distributors (again), advertisers...bookstores.
Newspapers - - - - paper company, press manufacturers, workers to man the presses, distributors, paper boys...
Cameras! Here you go! Once Kodak's "Brownie" made photography available to the masses, well, not only was there a need for the making of thousands of these cameras, but now there was a need for a film & developing industry. And photo albums. And accessories such as different lenses, tripods, flashbulbs/lighting, and, of course, the home movie projector and all that goes with that.
The Post Office - now here is a business that really took off during the mid-19th century and continued doing well over a hundred years later. Again, you had businesses that made stationary and writing utensils. And the post office hired sorters to go through the mail and deliverers.
I could go on about all of the incredible industries from the late 19th and early 20th centuries, but I now want to jump up to today and into the future.
My son has a Smart phone. On this tiny little palm-of-your-hand piece of plastic he can:
~take a picture
~make a short film clip
~send an e-mail
~read the latest news
~listen to music
~read a book...well, he does have a Kindl for that as well
~get directions through the GPS
~watch a movie or video
~oh! and make a phone call...
In fact, it does whatever a home computer does - - - -
What does this mean? Well, think about it:
~no more manufacturing of cameras
~we already know what's happening to the post office and newspapers
~no need to purchase a hand-held book
~no need to buy a CD
~no need to get a map or a separate GPS
~no reason to buy a DVD...
~Heck, not even a need to have a home computer!
Do you see where I'm going with this?
Inventions from times past tended to create industry and, thus, jobs. But in today's society, modern technology not only takes away jobs but even has robots manufacturing the products!
And I could go on: self-serve check out lines at the store and at the gas station, ATM's at the banks (or even on-line banking), robots building cars, music from your computer rather than people playing instruments, also on-line books, shopping through
Where will it end?
How can there be jobs available when there are no jobs due to "progress"?
Or am I missing something here?
If all one needs to do is to buy one palm-held smart phone and have pretty much everything they need, what does that leave for the future? Think of how many jobs in every aspect are gone. And they will be replaced with what?
What means will there be to make money?

Now, maybe I'm too stuck in tradition and am not aware of what wonders the future holds for the workers of the future.
If you know, can you please enlighten me? (And I refuse to believe everyone will work for 'smart phone' manufacturers!).



Susan Armstrong said...

Thank you, I agree wholeheartedly!!!
You stated my thougths exactly.

An Historical Lady said...

Great post as always, Ken. So much to think about---guess that's why I love my little escapes to the past.
When teaching, Adam has been amazed, and not in a good way, at the kids that have cell phones, smart phones, and ipads, as well as the sense of entitlement that seem to go with them! (He also has to repetedly deal with abuse of same while they are SUPPOSED to be learning... Guess we are old fashioned. So far, we cannot afford any such 'toys' for ourselves, and I think I would not let my kids have them, if they were young. I think I am probably a bit old fashioned but it seems that part of the reason this country is in the financial mess they are is because most people seem to think that big houses, new cars, and 'toys' are NECESSITIES!
Until there is a major attitude adjustment (and realization of what is REALLY important) on the part of the majority I don't think we'll see much improvement...Just my 2 cents.

Historical Ken said...

The future doesn't look nearly as bright as the past at this point.
Thank you ladies for your comments!

Mrs Cook said...

You know I have been making this argument as to where have the jobs all gone to. Its the same reason cable T,V does marathon weekends, just showing repeats of programming, every thing is done on the cheap! In life you get what you pay for. I never use self checkout lines, and I won't get a kindle. Call me old fashioned I don't mind! Mrs Cook

Pam of Eastlake Victorian said...

A lot of the assembly line jobs have gone to China, and the tech support people are in India and pretend to have American names like "Jim' when they try to trouble-shoot for you. It is a scary thought, wondering where the real jobs of the future will be. I still cherish "real" books, records, incandescent light bulbs. I'm lucky that so far my job hasn't gone obsolete, although I do it completely on computers instead of by hand as I did in the past (I'm in advertising, which probably will never go out of style).

It's sad to think the Industrial Revolution and the booming economy it created for this country is over.

Historical Ken said...

And now you can print your own U.S. postage stamps on your home printer.
What if no one has any money to buy ink to print a stamp? You need a job to earn money to buy a stamp, right?
When will it end?