The inherit paradox associated with progress is that new technology can improve lives, yet it comes at the cost of many workers’ livelihoods. When a technology improves production or eliminates the need for human labor, people are going to lose their jobs. Where a thousand people once performed a task, a single machine can step in without tiring. At the same time, our population grows, resulting in a need for even more jobs. It is when new technology does not spur the creation of enough new employment opportunities that job security is threatened.
Furthermore, only a dynamic workforce can adapt to the creation of new technologies. A failure to reinvent one’s self in the face of job loss at the introduction of new technology pushes seasoned workers to a lower pay grade or unemployment. Meanwhile, new recruits and retrained employees can fill positions that did not previously exist. This is the nature of our ever evolving economy. At least, this is how it is suppose to work. Unfortunately, our industrial society in decline faces an identity crisis as it tries to reinvent our principle industries.
The problem is that recent technological advances took such a huge leap forward that the number of jobs created, coupled with globalization and outsourcing, are inadequate to replace the jobs held by traditional workers. Our technology now changes so fast that we cannot possibly retrain our workers to compete in a global market. Even if we had a far more dynamic workforce, it is unlikely enough jobs could be created as technology minimizes the majority of blue collar workers while only a third of Americans have a college degree and education costs are exploding.
Technological advances are so great that today’s essential jobs are in the areas of basic research, advanced research, and development. Consequently, only individuals with professional degrees can fill these positions while even those fields are growing far too quickly for recent graduates to adequately address fresh discoveries with their education. Sadly, it was the hope of economists that service industry jobs could fill the human need, but an economy fueled by debt limits consumer spending and, thus, service industry jobs.
Quite frankly, technology does threaten jobs as it always has. On the other hand, technology also creates new opportunities and frees human capital up for more creative endeavors. Today, we simply face a growing challenge to adapt to the sudden jump in technological advancements. The solution is to reinvent our economies, so wealth and resources can be distributed to all in a sustainable manner, i.e. create different classes of jobs and other economic opportunities. In all, technology has a cost when it comes to jobs and that cost must be addressed.