Did you know? Fighting technology will not save jobs

By Bob Berkowitz April 09, 2014 12:34 pm

What are your friends up to? The first place I look is on Facebook. Even though I hardly ever post anything there, I do enjoy seeing what everyone else is doing, saying and learning.

So, as I was enjoying breakfast at Fisherman's Restaurant recently with my trusty Ipad for company, I came across Greg Forsht’s post.

Now Greg is no crackpot or off-the-wall guy. Though he now lives in Arizona, he was a respected Realtor in Del Norte County for many years. So, I didn’t think too much about it when I saw this post from him:

“My personal ban on ‘Self Check Out’ at stores everywhere!!! It takes one person to watch FOUR self check out registers. It takes one person to run ONE regular check out station. By using the self check out, you are putting three people out of a job. If you can take an extra minute or two & avoid the self check outs, you can help create jobs. Please join me in my one person (so far) boycott of self check outs & give someone a job !!!”

When I read the 16 comments that followed, I noticed that everyone agreed with his position and I was about to add my two cents in agreement when I said to myself, “Self, I think there is more here than meets the eye.”

It’s true that automation at our local Wal-mart and Home Depot may displace a worker or two at that position, but, because of automation, will there be many other jobs created? The answer is a resounding yes!

Progress in one field has the effect of displacing jobs in another. Think of what horse breeders must have gone through when automobiles were produced. A lot of them went out of business, including those in the assessory businesses. Saddle-makers would have seen the demand decrease as more cars hit the road, not to mention the makers of buggies, horse whips, buggy wheels and well, you get the picture.

It may have put the people who manufacture those items out of business, but think of what it did for the car manufactures like Ford and GM.  These companies employed thousands of people, as did their auxiliary businesses like tire makers, crank shaft manufacturers and after market auto parts dealers, not to mention the thousands of people who work in auto repair shops. 

New technology replaces old technology every day. How many of you remember the pay phone? With the advent of the mobile phone, they are relegated to the scrap heap of history.

Speaking of phones, it was just in the last century that we had thousands of people employed as telephone operators. All were displaced by newer technologies.

Today I think our local schools are on the right track.  We should not be training for specific jobs that may be out of date in the future, but instead teaching our kids how to think critically. The old days where a person worked at one company or a specific job until retirement are gone.

Don’t think a general college education is going to lead to a good job either.  Only if you have a PhD in the field of Psychology, History, Sociology or some of the other social science fields is there a chance you will get a good job in those fields. Otherwise, you will end up with thousands of dollars in college debt when you graduate with little chance to pay it off. 

That brings me back to Greg’s article about the people who may be displaced as cashiers at our local stores. Let’s encourage them to get training needed for jobs that pay very well and will never be replaced by technology such as plumbers, electricians and general contractors. Jobs that we desperately need and  don’t require expensive advanced college degrees.

Bob Berkowitz is a Crescent City resident and president of LifeStyles Research Co.