Re: Substituting computers for people LO170

Keith Cowan (
Sun, 19 Feb 1995 18:21:23 -0500 (EST)

Bob Nordlinger wrote in LO68: > K.C. Burgess Yakemovic wrote: > >
training. If we aren't careful there will be a few jobs for highly > >
skilled,educated people... and some jobs requiring manual labor, but no >
> "thinking"... and no jobs for the vast number of people who fall "in the
> > middle", ability-wise. > > Keith Cowan responded: > >There is a group
of futurists who claim that the pace of technology WILL > >put
semi-skilled people out of work - receptionists and operators replaced >
>by voicemail, secretaries by PC/WP, file clerks by disk management
software, > >etc. > > >This means that those who do not have the aptitude
or attitude for picking > >up new skills will be unemployable in
sufficient numbers. > > What seems to be missing from this debate is the
recognition that the > spectrun of skills is continually moving, not
static as implied. What you > are regarding today as semi-skilled was
highly-skilled one or two > generations ago. > > How about three
generations ago, when society had hordes of manual laborer > jobs (pick
and shovel laborers, domestic staff, human backs that loaded > and
unloaded wagons, ships and trains) about 75% of the workforce? One > can
imagine the same cries when they were displaced by mechanical >
earth-moving equipment or other machinery - "this sector of the workforce
> will now be permanently unemployable" because there will be no more
manual > labor jobs available. > > Is that 75% of the workforce sitting
on the sidelines because there are no > pick and shovel jobs, no hands and
knees cleaning jobs, no human backs > needed to carry coal or load cargo?
Of course not, people from this > sector of education, ability,
opportunity, etc are doing the jobs we call > unskilled or semi-skilled
today. > > Sorry for the long copy
but I have been away so you may have forgotten. The futurist quotation was
to illustrate that there is a "hard core" level that the semi-skilled
cannot move beyond no matter how much training or study is made available.
The thinking is that a small number of knowledge workers will support a
larger number of semi- or unskilled workers in todays society.

There are lots of taxi driver, pizza delivery and retails sales jobs that
will be filled by these folks, but the pace of the technology-driven
information highway will eventually eliminate many of the jobs for these
people and force a smaller percentage of the population to support a
growing welfare role.

Keith Cowan       Phone: (416)565-6253           FAX: (905)858-7131
Toronto        Internet:  Compuserve: 72212,51