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 The invention of the telegraph created a big jump in communications jobs, at the expense of the soon outdated Pony Express career man.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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