Welcome to the new economy

Last year, I read an interesting article in the San Jose Mercury News entitled: “Robot Culture Blossoms in the Bay Area”. The article highlighted a start-up robotics company named Momentum Machines based in San Francisco. The company is presently hard at work developing an apparatus called the Burgeon that can produce an assembled hamburger (complete with toasted buns and an array of condiments) every 16 seconds. In addition to slapping together burgers, the contraption can grind the meat, stamp out the individual patties and cook the burgers. In short, the company’s goal is to revolutionize the fast food industry with more efficient automated food delivery.

I remember recently entering the lobby of a company I was working for. Instead of being greeted by a smiling receptionist, I noticed a computer terminal next to the vacated desk. As I approached the terminal, it greeted me with the words: “Visitors please log in here”.

There are more examples I could illustrate within this blog but I will stop here. Here is an interesting question to ponder: how many more years do you think the United States Post Office will exist?

As we digest the monthly jobs reports, it should come as no surprise why we are experiencing a slow economic recovery. While more sophisticated jobs continue to be created, older traditional jobs are being destroyed by advanced technology and automation. For the purposes of cutting costs, companies have declared more and more occupations expendable and thus have replaced human beings with machinery and software. As a result of this activity, we now have fewer jobs available and more people looking for work. Granted, displaced workers must attempt to re-tool their skills and adapt the best they can to this new economic reality. However, not all displaced workers have the economic means to access higher education or the desire to become software engineers.

I have nothing against technology. I participate with thousands of others by using automated checkout machines, ATMs and other convenient technologies from time to time. At my core, however, I am still a people person and prefer interacting with humans over machines if given the choice.

I remember once asking my dad why we needed janitors. He replied: “because it’s honorable labor done by decent people that needs to get done”. The bottom line is this: All types of work (not just technology jobs) brings tremendous purpose to people’s lives. In my opinion, everyone is called to perform some sort of honorable labor and everyone brings something to the table. Unfortunately, many of these honorable jobs are gone forever.

So we keep on keeping on while continuing to create, celebrate and reward jobs that focus on the next big thing. Once we have the next big thing, thousands of additional workers will be added to the unemployment rolls. Sure, we may be experiencing an economic recovery, but it’s a recovery that is failing to lift all boats. Stubbornly high unemployment? Yep, there’s definitely an app for that.

Welcome to the new economy my friends.

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