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Aim of technology should be new jobs

Monday, June 28, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 11:43 a.m. CDT, Thursday, July 10, 2008

A few weeks ago I turned down the opportunity to learn how to use the Automated Postal Center that was installed recently at the post office. It’s probably a great technological wonder allowing folks to have 24-7 access to a full range of mailing services. I’m sure over the next few years it will save the government a lot of money by replacing postal clerks with machines. But frankly, until somebody comes up with some new technology to replace machines with people, some that create jobs instead of taking them away, I’m going to remain far from enthusiastic about our great advances.

Every time I have to fill up my gas tank I’m reminded of how we were all going to save money by pumping our own gas, checking our own oil and cleaning our own windshields and eliminating the jobs of service attendants. I never wanted to grow up to pump gas, but the thing I resent most is the fact that it is getting increasingly more difficult to find a station that offers full service. And I haven’t reached the point where I have to prove my worth as a woman by trying to perform tasks for which I’m ill-suited.

I’m sure I’m once again in the minority when I keep resenting the fact that this whole do-it-yourself movement seems to be designed to fill up the coffers of Big Business by shaving their payrolls while we (the consumers) do all the work. Why do I have to pay all of these people to provide services when I have to fill out all the paperwork? Isn’t that part of the service I’m paying for?

I know it’s a great source of pride for some people that we have all these smart machines. But it seems to me a big price to pay for our hefty unemployment rate. And I know that technology is causing people to lose jobs as much as outsourcing. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not against technological advances, but I think we need to think about advancing it in the direction of new job creation. It’s silly to hear folks talking about job training when most of the jobs people would be learning are already obsolete. Some of these geniuses need to stop inventing long enough to figure out what will be needed in the future, beyond new entertainment toys, machines to replace current jobs and bigger cars that consume more fuel.

While not all of us would care for space travel, the new venture undertaken by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen with the launching of the SpaceShipOne project seems to be a step in the right direction. Also, the opportunities for new technologies in the field of geriatrics are plentiful. We need a school of new thinkers who are keeping an eye on current trends and can foresee future needs that are looming on the horizon. Hopefully, someone of influence (obviously not our political leadership) will take up the issue of job creation and get it on the national agenda.

As I write this I can almost hear the neocons in the background telling people that I’m crazy because the economy is in tiptop shape and growing. This is because everyone they know is working, and this is true only because their small circle of acquaintances is made up of people like them who are politically connected to money sources whose bank accounts are overflowing with dollars ripped off from pension funds, mutual funds, etc. And I’m constantly amazed by the number of poor people who believe these folks have their best interests at heart.

As immigrants continue to pour across our borders, we are going to need plenty of new jobs to keep our swelling population fed, clothed, healthy, housed and schooled. It seems to me that now more than ever we need to focus our technology on ways that will help us deal with these new realities.

And frankly, I’m tired of new gadgets. New products seem to be introduced over the television every hour. How many pans, mattresses, vacuum cleaners and computers can one household use? Especially, households of one like mine?

Our landfills are already full of junk. How about we switch to things that really provide a good quality of life, like affordable health care and use our skills and energy to try to either create it or import it. What about good-paying jobs that don’t require taxpayers to have to subsidize minimum wage workers? See, there are many fields in which technology can be used to find ways to make our lives better.

I’m sure it won’t take long before the Automated Postal Center begins to look and sound like a window clerk. After awhile,we won’t even remember when there were men and women behind those windows.

Which only proves that everything that looks like progress and sounds like progress today is not necessarily progress. Fair warning!

You can join the conversation with Rose M. Nolen by calling at 882-5734 or e-mailing her at nolen@iland.net.


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