Changing Technology: Is it Killing Jobs?

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It is frustrating when people lose their job because some new technology replaces them. As technology advances, it happens more and more. On the upside, new technologies produce new industries and require their own maintenance, but on the downside, new technologies displace current workers. "People suffer — their livelihoods, their skills and training are worth less. But that is the price we pay for progress," says Joel Mokyr, a historian of technological change at Northwestern University, in a recent AP article by Bernard Condon.


If you look back at the not-too-distant past, you can see the trend of how technology has improved life and added new jobs on one side, while devastating some skill sets and careers on the other. Condon’s article gives a brief rundown of this history, looking at the first and second industrial revolutions as well as the more current information age.


During the first industrial revolution, tasks that had been accomplished solely by human hands could be completed more quickly with the aid of machinery and human hands. Steam-powered machines made things run faster and more powerfully than human hands.


The second industrial revolution brought us the age of steel and electric power. Steel became a big hit in the railroad industry, replacing the less-effective wrought iron of old, and allowing trains to travel faster with heavier loads. This would of course hurt those jobs that habitually replaced and repaired the wrought iron, while opening new jobs in steel and other related areas. Of course faster, more-efficient trains meant more products could be shipped faster, which increased sales and therefore also increased sales jobs in sales and manufacturing. The invention of the telegraph created a big jump in communications jobs, at the expense of the soon outdated Pony Express career man.


In 1971, the first email was sent by a Defense Department computer. Now, forty plus years later, electronic mail like this has put a serious dent in the postal service business, but increased the need for computer-based careers. “The past three decades, new products and innovations have allowed people to entertain and inform themselves anywhere, anytime,” Condon rightly states. These types of new technology continued, and the swapping of job needs likewise continued, and shows no signs of stopping in our future.


The bottom line is that it's important to gaze down your career path to see if the winds are blowing in favor of career longevity. If you find hints of uncertainty, then it may be a good time to begin looking for a job that is more future-oriented and technologically sound. No one can predict the future, but it can be important step to do some research about new or impending technologies that could impact your career in the long term. Never become complacent in your role, always seek to expand your knowledge and skill sets, and keep on the cutting edge of technology.


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  • Jeffrey McCormack
    Jeffrey McCormack
    Thanks for the comments everyone. And to address Tony and Yuri's comments, I am sorry the conclusion was not as you were hoping. The last paragraph does address some action to take to combat this issue in the future of your own position, and keeping an eye to stay ahead of the changing curve. There is only so much that can be said, since things are always changing - we must just keep on the lookout for ways it may change our status in the future, as it applies to each person's individual path.
  • VIctor C
    VIctor C
    I have been in Information Technology for 40 years.Never had to be concerned about a job, rather contract...
  • JR G
    JR G
    Yes, and the job opportunities for blacksmiths are down, but the demand for web designers and software engineers is through the roof.  The message is adopt lifelong learning or you're an ostrich with a target on your back. This is not new news - but normal from AP.
  • Noel M
    Noel M
    Yes it has destroyed jobs.  While the conveniences if gave were wonderful, it killed a lot of jobs.  Look at the post office, any public library and any newpaper.  They're gone.  
  • Daniel S
    Daniel S
    New technologies lower prices and open markets to vast numbers of consumers that otherwise could not afford the products. But increased volume is not going to save your career if your job is off shored.No career is safe unless the society you live in produces new wealth. Nearly all wealth is in the form of food, shelter, raw materials and manufactured items. All the services we enjoy are ultimately funded by the production of wealth. Monetary transactions may accumulate and distribute wealth but, nothing is created in the process.Think about this; without the production of new wealth, all career paths are a dead end.
  • Tony M
    Tony M
    I agree with Yuri, this comment states a common problem known for a long time.  The author states nothing new, nor does he suggest any way for society or its people to combat the effects.  Post something helpful, or don’t post anything.
  • Peter S
    Peter S
    Agree! Kids planning on going to college must look ahead, too. No sense in studying for the "old world". Study for the "new world".
  • Joshua A
    Joshua A
    No! I'll tell you what killed your job! Either your lazy, or your Jack-a-low government!
  • Mark A
    Mark A
    I agree with this article and it is very well demonstrated if one watches the HBO special: "The Men who made America".I do believe that Technology's movement forward is always based on a powerful financial elite that control the enablement of new technolgy to replace existing monopolies.(#1 example: BIG OIL)
  • Fred B
    Fred B
    There was no Pony Express career man, for the service operated for just a year and a half. Technology doesn't kill jobs, but shortsighted corporations, buying perverse incentives with the bribing of legislators, do. Industry pundits cheering on specious concepts like "the Cloud", ITIL3, and ITSM, introduce fake uncertainty and lead people to run on pointless treadmills so that they always feel behind undeserving employers and media organizations whose members couldn't do the work if they tried. Technology is completely benign.
  • Yuri N
    Yuri N
    I opened this hoping to find some new take on this very old topic, but it's just part of that perennial grab bag of recycled articles. Nothing new.

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