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...

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