What resulted was a three-part series bemoaning the rapid advancements in technology and smart machines. It can be summarized in four words: “This time it’s different.” Well, it sadly is, and more than likely for the next four years, but not for the reasons AP cites. AP’s premise:
For decades, science fiction warned of a future when we would be architects of our own obsolescence, replaced by our machines. … [T]he future has arrived.
The team which produced the report believes that technology is advancing so quickly and on so many fronts that it’s simply unreasonable to expect new jobs to appear fast enough to replace the ones being destroyed.
While the pace and nature of tech advancements have been and continue to be phenomenal, the notion that they are unique to the point of causing insurmountable economic and employment problems should be absurd. As economist and George Mason University Professor Walter Williams pointed out in a 2011 column:
(In) 1900 … about 41 percent of our labor force was employed in agriculture. By 2008, fewer than 3 percent of Americans were employed in agriculture. … [O]ur farmers are the world’s most productive. As a result, Americans are better off.
In 1970, the telecommunications industry employed 421,000 workers as switchboard operators, annually handling 9.8 billion long-distance calls. Today the telecommunications industry employs only 78,000 operators … (processing) more than 100 billion long-distance calls a year.
Fifty years ago, a typical textile worker operated five machines capable of running thread through a loom 100 times a minute. Today machines run six times as fast, and one worker can oversee 100 of them.
You say, “Williams, certain jobs are destroyed by technology.” You’re right, but many more are created.
Defying Professor Williams’ optimism, AP’s team of reporters left readers with three unacceptable choices as to what will result:
- The best-case scenario is that “the economy returns to health after a wrenching transition.” AP quotes leftist economist Joseph Stiglitz as claiming that it will take at least “half a decade,” meaning after Obama’s time in the White House has (hopefully) ended. How convenient.
- “The economy continues to produce jobs, just not enough good ones.”
- “Technology leads to mass unemployment.”
If this “blame tech” mantra sounds mildly familiar, it’s because Obama himself has on a few unguarded occasions commented on how technology has destroyed jobs, indicting ATMs, airport kiosks, and the Internet for sending bank tellers, airline reservation agents, and others to the unemployment line. Apparently, never to return except perhaps as burger flippers or cashiers. I fear that the AP’s decision to identify tech as the scapegoat is no mere coincidence, and may foreshadow foolish attempts by the administration to slow down technological progress in the name of “saving jobs.”
Obamacare is already slated to do that very thing to the entire healthcare sector.
With all due respect to Professor Williams above, he would be right about enough replacement jobs being created if we were living in a genuine free-market economy. Unfortunately, that’s not where we are in this nation. Virtually all of the reasons why sufficient job growth isn’t occurring can be traced to the Obama administration’s market-hostile economic policies and postures.