Thursday, October 29, 2009

What Industries are Going to be Destroyed Next?

As I continue to sit here rather underemployed and somewhat dispirited with the job hunt, I figured I'd indulge in some schadenfreude and imagine what industries are going to be wiped out in the near future by good ol' technological progress. I started thinking along this course when desiring, as I often do, a car that can drive itself. They're getting fairly close with this technology, it might be on the road by 2020. As I generally hate driving, I'll enjoy this immensely, but there will be a fairly huge number of additional consequences. In addition to the possibility of saving 40,000 lives a year, we'll all be able to drink as much as we want without stranding ourselves at the mercy of America's shoddy public transportation.

On the jobs side though, there'll be a few upsets. At the moment, America has around 200k taxi drivers, 600k bus drivers, and more than 3 million truck drivers. As soon as automated cars become cheap, that'll be a fairly large hole in the economy. Then there's also the affect that if everyone stopped owning cars and using them in Zipcar like fashion, the entire automotive industry will take a huge hit as we could get by with far fewer cars if they were used more continuously. Amory Lovins will be thrilled.

But that's all only going to start around 2020 and I bet it won't fully be felt until ten years after that. In the short-term there's plenty of industries crumbling. Much of that is simply the economy, as many on that list are only vaguely related to technological change and therefore somewhat less interesting to me.

In terms of jobs that technological change might render obsolescent, well, I've said for awhile that as soon they can robotically make fast-food there will be a revolt, but, the Japanese aside, I don't imagine that being cost effective anytime soon. I feel we'll see cars automated long before restaurants because a car already costs in the range of 20 thousand, adding an automation system to that will end up being a relatively small addition.

Still, maybe my dislike of driving is making my car predictions too techno-utopian. Whatever happened with self-checkout for example? When I first saw those a few years ago, I figured they'd have expanded more by now.

Ah well, later, I'm sure there are plenty more good resources on how technology will render more jobs obsolete. Now if I could just get someone with a group health plan to hire me...

Sunday, October 4, 2009

The Great Recession Continues

I haven't had that much to write about in the last... what? Ouch, almost a month. I've been putting most of my time into applying for jobs and trying to study up on whatever it is that software engineers are supposed to know these days (apparently it's a lot of web design).

As far as commenting on the world, well, I feel like I haven't had all that much to say recently. Still waiting to see if health care gets resolved in any coherent way, waiting to see if anything is made out of the mess in AfPak, waiting for the damn economy to get sorted out. Most of those things are horribly complex issues that don't really have easy solutions.

However, as I'm still unemployed and bitter about it, I suppose I can complain about the economy some more. From California to America as a whole, things could be better. Some of these problems might indeed be getting getting worked on, but at a horribly slow pace. That's why I tend to support radical overhauls of everything, practicality be damned.

I suppose I'm also waiting for augmented reality, life extension, fusion power and room-temperature superconductors to be invented, but I have even less to contribute on those fronts. To get us out of this economic mess though, I'm starting to think we're going to need some damn nice technological innovations.