Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Bank Tellers and Other Strange Disappearances

Has anyone seen a bank teller lately.  I think I saw the last one about four years ago.  I remember a time when I saw one at least once a week.   The first time I remember something like this happening was about 30 years ago. Gas station attendants disappeared. Most of you reading this probably don't remember, but there was a time when if you drove into a gas station a person would appear and fill your gas tank for you. I know it's hard to believe, but its true.

Over the years other occupations have gone extinct.  When I was young, a company would deliver milk to your front door.  When you called a business a person actually answered the phone and directed you to the help you needed.  Then there was the diaper man.  Yes its true, there was a time when diapers were cloth.  A service would bring you clean diapers once a week and pick up the soiled ones.

Just the other day I was watching a video of an Amazon warehouse. Small robots roamed the facility selecting individual storage shelves and moving the shelves to a different part of the warehouse where a human picker was waiting to remove a specific item. The robot then returned the storage shelf to its location in the warehouse. These robots eliminated the job of walking through a warehouse and picking items off shelves. The workforce was reduced by 90%. If you ever visit a modern factory robots have eliminated countless jobs.

If you pay any attention at all, it can't have escaped your notice that the conversations about robots and computers taking everyone's job has increased dramatically.  There was a time when I mounted a small resistance to the process. When I went to a grocery store, I never got in a self checkout line. I felt by using the self checkout I was endangering a person's job.  I must confess that I have abandon my efforts and now I mostly use the self checkout.  I do still feel guilty about surrendering to inevitable march of technology.

The only real question left is what are we going to do when there are not enough jobs to go around.  Conversations have begun about a guaranteed  minimum monthly income.  The idea is that everyone get enough money to pay for the necessities of life.  I can't imagine our country being able to decide on this.  We are so dedicated to the capitalist model.  This dedication exist even with the constant erosion of the standard of living of most Americans.

In the 1950's a blue collar worker like a carpenter could support a family with six kids in a very comfortable home and the wife could stay home with the kids. In the Sixties and seventies the same life style required the wife to work. That changed to the point where both the husband and wife worked but they had nothing left to put away for savings. Now, both the husband and wife work, but they have to go into debt to have the same life style.

I haven't been appointed benevolent dictator yet so there is really nothing that I can do about this.  I'm not so sure that I have any answers anyway.