At best it’s just much ado about nothing.
There’s been a lot of complaining and rumbling around the Texas Hill Country lately about people not using self-checkout lines because it’s taking people’s jobs. I find it amusing that people are willing to stand up for those people now while they weren’t willing to do so several years ago. The very fact that you’re supporting Walmart, McDonald’s, and Target, etc. means you didn’t support these same folks keeping their jobs at local businesses when the big box stores came in and forced them to close. Neither do they think about the ripple effect on the small businesses those small businesses supported who had to close their doors for lack of business. When have you seen a Walmart or Home Depot buying supplies of any kind from a local establishment? Who has ever seen McDonald’s or Taco Bell buying produce or meat from local farmers? When do you ever see them supporting the local newspapers and radio stations by taking out advertising with them? Sure- they put their sale flyer inserts in the local paper often enough but they’re not printed locally and the paper charges them a fraction of what a newspaper ad would cost to insert those flyers.
Not only that but if you’re really upset over machines replacing humans- “You ain’t seen nothing yet”. How upset are you gonna be when Amazon Go opens its next store in your fair city. They are using technology in these stores to let them operate entirely with no checkout lines and no employees present in the store at all. The system knows what you put in your bag and if you change your mind, it knows what you put back. When you’re done you just walk out- No checkout kiosks at all- just a row of sensors you walk through. The only employees you’ll ever see in these stores are the ones that stop by once or twice a day to restock the shelves. They’ve chosen Seattle as their proving grounds and just opened their second store there. It’s only a matter of time until they become as common as your corner convenience store.
I don’t think I’m stepping out on a limb to say a lot of the people we see protesting are the same people that didn’t support their local Mom and Pop grocery stores when Walmart first came in and now there are none left. One can only imagine how many local jobs were lost because of the demise of all those little stores. These same people who don’t want to use the self-checkout still don’t support their locally owned restaurants and hamburger joints because they can just pick up a burger while they’re at Walmart. And what about our local printers? Do those same people buy their business cards locally so our local printers don’t lose their jobs or go out of business or do they order them from Vistaprint? Or did they just buy a $50 printer from Walmart so they don’t need to send Business cards, letterheads, or anything else out to be printed anymore? How many of them bought a really good $300 camera so they wouldn’t have to pay $1000 to one of the local photographers to photograph their wedding. How many of them bought their wedding cake from Walmart for $50 or $100 so they wouldn’t have to pay $200 to a local craftsman to bake them one? How many of them buy their produce from Walmart rather than support the local Farmers Market or produce stores?
I also find it amusing that people just don’t accept the fact that machines replacing humans is one of the basic elements of life that will never go away. It’s been happening for at least 5000 years when someone figured out how to put wheels on chariots. The invention of the wheel meant you could put at least 8 chariot bearers out of a job because the Pharoh could now hitch a couple of horses to his chariot and get around much faster than he could with all those people carrying him. Machines have been replacing people ever since.
I can’t count (using both hands and feet) how many times my job was replaced by some machine, invention or just by the improvement in productivity standards. The very first job I ever held in my life was setting pins (by hand) at the old Maple Lanes Bowling Alley in Brownwood, Texas. At the tender age of 13, I learned what real work was all about. People today would refer to this as “back-breaking” work and it would be a job that very few people would do. I worked there 3 or 4 years up into high school when a shiny new bowling alley opened across town with automatic pinsetters. A few months later Maple Lanes closed due to lack of business and every pinboy in town was put out of a job There were at least 15 or 20 of us active at the time. When I first started in the printing business in the late 50’s things seemed to just rock along without many huge technology changes for a few years. In fact, we didn’t really think of the printing business as being very technical at all back in those days. It was more of a skilled laborer kind of a mindset where today it’s more just knowing which button to push to get what you want.
So for the 1st 5 or 6 years in the printing / graphic arts business, I don’t remember a lot of technical innovations except for the introduction of word processing somewhere around 1964. It really didn’t resemble our word processors of today at all. It was pretty primitive in that your keystrokes were recorded either to a magnetic tape or by punching a row of holes in a paper tape. After completing your typesetting on an electric typewriter you would have to run the tape back through another machine to actually see what your set type would look like. Through the years there were many inventions that came along to improve workflow and productivity and it often meant that 1 or more employees were no longer needed because some invention made the company more productive.
Fast forward to the 90’s when programs like PhotoShop, CorelDRAW!, and Adobe Illustrator really started turning the publishing industry on its ear. We all marveled (and I still do today) at the concept of ditching a room full of machines, each the size of a Volkswagon and an entire art department with 3 or 4 experienced people on a Personal Computer and good software. What took me days to do in the 70’s and 80’s we can now do in a few minutes with a PC. Prior to the 90’s, you had to prepare art by hand using a bevy of tools including scissors, scotch tape, razor blades, t-squares, proportion wheels, rulers, loupes, scribing styluses, Rubylith, masking sheets, light tables- I could go on and on. After creating the artwork, if the job included full color you either had to have expensive huge cameras (most of which were built into a wall) and expensive electronic equipment to create the negatives needed to reproduce it, or you had to send the artwork out to a color separation lab and it usually took a couple of weeks to get it back. In modern times, once parameters are established for your workflow, creating a color separation only requires a couple of key-strokes, Needless to say, the invention of the PC and graphics software put countless people out of a job in the printing industry. Innovations introduced in just in the last few years are simplifying printing plate making and other processes thus putting even more printing-related businesses out of business. People are able to do much more with much less.
Virtually EVERY sector of commerce has always been driven by new inventions, processes, and techniques to create more efficiency. Just keep in mind that it started 5000 years ago when someone put those first wheels on a chariot and it’s something that will NEVER end.