Fear of the Future

Since I have more alone time since the pandemic started, I have spent much of my time researching science and tech articles and journals. I’ve been especially interested in the changes in the workplace and job market. Personally I’ve been getting my groceries delivered to my house since 2017. When I started this, I was the first one in my complex to do so. As far as I know, a significant portion of my neighbors now do so.

I’ve gotten most of my shopping done online via Amazon and King Size for several years. For the first time in my life, I actually have a complete wardrobe that fits perfectly. I never understood why people were so picky about brands of clothing, at least for clothes that didn’t have to be worn at work or social gatherings. But then I grew up in rural Nebraska where most people wore polo shirts and slacks even to church. It was tough to get excited about clothes shopping when I knew it was hit or miss if I would find anything good in my size. Most people weren’t at all sympathetic about it. I was just told to “lose weight” rather than look for specialty clothing options via mail order and online. For me, the internet has been a godsend when it comes to shopping for clothing.

I don’t regret selling my car. I had grown to hate driving over the years. And since I live in a small town in a predominantly rural state, driving is my only real option. I’ve had people tell me that things like buses and passenger trains were “socialist.” Never mind that USA used to have the best passenger rail and public transit service in the world. And air travel, with all it’s restrictions and screenings, is a sick joke as far as I’m concerned. You pay for a ticket and then they treat you like you a criminal from the time you show up at the airport until you arrive at your destination.

But, it’s alright. With communication tech being what it is, I really don’t have to leave home much anymore. And the pandemic accelerated the changes that were already starting. People tell me to socialize more. What do think I do online? I also read more now than I have at any point in my life even if I haven’t been to the library in over five years. I’m actually learning more as a middle age man than I ever did in school. Too many people got the idea that learning has to be tough and boring. And no, memorization isn’t learning. A damn smart phone can look up facts and do math better than any scholar. Anyone relying on rote memorization and repetition is getting slaughtered in the real world. It’s only going to get worse in that regard.

When I was struggling socially in junior high, my dad told me that nerds and geeks would someday rule the world. I thought he was full of it when he told me this when I was thirteen. But, not even thirty years later he was right. Most of the richest people in the world got their start in science and high tech, not manufacturing or mining. And I am loving every minute of it. Things like comic books, live action role playing, computers, techno music, video gaming, art, writing, empathy, compassion, etc. were considered weak and unmanly. My classmates hated people who read comic books and worked on computers or did art. They were like be normal, play sports and fix cars.

Now people are worried about machines taking over many current jobs. They should be, especially with the whole Puritan work ethic and being defined by your employment type of b.s. we’ve shoved down our kids throats for generations. These kids are right when they know that even a college degree isn’t worth as much as it was forty years ago. I’m glad I went to college when I did and got out debt free. College was also the only means I had to find something conducive to my skill set. I grew up in a town of less than 500 people dominated by corn farming and raising cattle. The nearest four year college was an hour and a half drive away. Corn farming and raising cattle requires nowhere near as many workers as it did one hundred years ago. We no longer live in a world where 80 percent of our workers can work on farms, factories, or mines. Maybe 15 percent of the population does such now. People complain about all the manufacturing jobs getting sent to China, but the value of US manufacturing is actually higher than ever. We just manufacture expensive things like jets, power generators, etc. And much of our manufacturing is done via machines. Blaming immigrants and foreigners is a convenient red herring for politicians looking for votes.

If there is a point to this post, it is that the future is already arriving. It’s up to us to adapt to the new reality or step aside for those who will rise to the challenges. If you don’t think the world can change for the better, you are wrong. It will change for the better but it will change in spite of people who try to hold onto the good old days (which actually sucked for most people by the way).

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