Steve Hansen: Like software, we need to stay up to date


By Steve Hansen

Former QCS Managing Editor

A time that many have feared since the advent of room-size computers that could do a tenth of what a modern calculator can do may be uncomfortably close, according to a growing number of economists.

Economists are saying that robots and computers are starting to take more jobs than they create, leaving significant amounts of “excessive labor,” that is, out-of-work people, in their wake.

It’s unfortunate but necessary that businesses look for ways to cut costs to maximize their profits, and equally unfortunate that labor is generally where the costs are greatest. So that’s where they look first.

Even some jobs that used to require highly trained people are becoming computerized. Computers can, for example, examine chest x-rays more quickly and accurately than some x-ray technicians.

Many say automation is a key factor in why real wages have actually been declining on average over the past couple of decades.

The Wall Street Journal, the official publication of the profit-maximizers, has a couple of blogs that say, “Other people will hire the ones you let go, so it’s OK if you replace everybody with a robot.”

I have two questions for them:

1. Who’s going to hire the excess people really? The competition is getting rid of them just as fast as you are.

2. If you put most people out of work, who’s going to buy your stuff?

One key study by economists Benedikt Frey and Michael Osborne has estimated that 47 percent of total U.S. jobs could be automated and taken over by computers by 2033.

It’s ironic that the profit-maximizers are now begging for more people who can design the machines that put people out of work. Generations subsequent to the baby boom have been lax about reproducing, probably because they can’t afford large families, leaving holes in the labor supply.

Some economists say the most promising job growth areas are at the very top of professional fields and in some skill areas that machines will be slow to duplicate (especially if programmers are in short supply).

My only advice to present and future workers is to consume all the education you can hold, and stay alert on where and how to update your skills.

Steve Hansen writes about our life and times from his perspective of a retired Tucumcari journalist. Contact him at:

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