- John C. Thompson
15th September, 2017
Our brave new emerging dystopia is looming up fast, and the consequences will be upon us faster than any government can calculate. Expect unrest.
Human beings often fail to recognize an old conundrum – just because we can do something, it doesn’t mean we should do it.
Decades ago children played outside in an unsupervised manner and learned valuable lessons thereby; such as to not poke sticks into hornet nests or play baseball with a plate glass window for a backstop. Such practicality seems absent now.
Yesterday came news that two ex-Google employees have a plan for app-driven automated kiosks that will eliminate the need for corner stores. They intend to deploy a 1,000 such kiosks throughout the US next year. Convenience stores run on narrow margins as it is; these kiosks will drive more of them under.
Robotic trucks are coming fast; more and more of them are appearing in yards and mine sites. More will be on the roads soon enough. Within a decade, taxi drivers and truck drivers alike will have been replaced by robots.
Canada’s Associations of Convenience Stores has 26,000 stores on its membership rolls – and 227,000 people are employed in our bodegas, dépanneurs and corner stores. These also have a long tradition of allowing under-educated newcomers to integrate into the economy: Mom and Dad working all hours in their corner-store to send their kids through university? It’s not a cliché.
Statistics Canada notes that are also 227,000 Canadians who describe themselves as commercial truck drivers (a curious coincidence… or maybe not). More Canadians make a living as drivers for delivery trucks – there are 420,000 freight-carrying trucks in the country.
As usual, multiply these figures ten-fold to consider the impact on the United States.
More Canadians make a living as truck drivers than in any other industry. It’s also a job that requires no special education, and so drivers might be characterized as being blue-collar workers and often without other professional skills.
Of course, the coming surge of automation and robotics threatens far more jobs than these. It is not just entry-level jobs like cashiers and ticket agents that are in danger. However, imagine the economy as an ecosystem; what happens when entire ecological niches vanish?
Just because we can do something, it doesn’t mean we should. Work is often how we identify ourselves and gives people a sense of self-worth. Deprive people of this and they have nothing invested in the preservation of a society.
Some people need to be taken out to the woods and be left with a stick near a hornets’ nests. Maybe then they will learn a valuable life lesson.
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