Monday, January 14, 2013

Two Steps Back

Last night's 60 Minutes, the venerable CBS TV news magazine, featured a story which really got me thinking. In short, it was all about the use of robots in manufacturing these days. The segment showed small automated machines, about the size of a vacuum cleaner filling orders in a huge warehouse. The little creatures are so adept they can crawl under large shelving units and pick up stacks of merchandise in neatly stores crates and deliver them to shipping stations. No human labor involved. Of course that means greater profit and greater productivity for management. It means, too, fewer workers needed.
Some of the companies now using these robots are even returning to this country to manufacture here at home instead of outsourcing their jobs. By the end of the program the all important question of what happens to people in this country who depend on jobs like that emerged. Just the question, no answer. Hopefully some sort of leadership or vision will also surface by the time this matters. Immediately, I surmised that this won't affect my life or my income.  Guess I'm to old to worry about being around when millions more are out of work.  Yet I couldn't get past the notion that we're in for some dynamic and earth-shaking change in the decades to come. All around us the models of the previous century are disappearing. This is as it should be. It has to be. Technology is developing and changing everything so fast we have no choice but to adapt.  I wondered, however, if there comes a time in everyone's life when they make a conscious choice to let it all be and stay with what's comfortable and familiar rather than every new paradigm? A good friend of mine, an archeologist, is already concerned with young people who have no time to experience the world directly. He fears that social media may be developed and preferred to such a state that a simple attraction like having a wilderness experience or even a campout might be unheard of someday. Hard to believe. I look at the face of an I-phone lately and I see how easy it is to access all things electronic. I've even heard of fly fishermen who check changing weather conditions, insect hatch cycles, and river flow conditions while standing in a stream. About 50 years ago, when people began to wonder and predict the world to come they could only imagine how it would all go down. The Twilight Zone got some things right and missed others by light years. I recall a speaker at a friend's high school graduation back then quote an information specialist from MIT. The gist of the idea was that there are so many books with so much information coming out and at us so fast that even if we wanted to "stay current," it will be impossible. That we can get used to. I wonder, more often than not when will I or better yet have I reached my tipping point?  You can ask yourself the same question and view the 60 Minutes piece here:

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