Editorial: Crazy thing has no stop in sight

Jan. 23, 2013 @ 07:14 PM

What the campaigns didn’t tell us last fall, and at the midterm election before that, is fast becoming known.

Wednesday’s report by The Associated Press, an exhaustive research piece, confirms the middle class of not only America but countries across the globe is not easily surviving the technology age. The middle class is emptying between the chasm of the upper class and the lower class.

Science fiction has a long list of storylines where humans build machines that take over their lives. The gadgets we’re enjoying are part of the reason unemployment won’t be changing soon.

Employment data of 20 developed countries was studied for the AP report. Industry changes in hiring, pay and task were tracked. Job losses and gains were compared in recessions and expansions of the past four decades. Interviews were conducted with economists, technology experts, robot manufacturers, software developers, entrepreneurs and people in the labor force from chief executive officers to the unemployed.

Machines have a long history of taking away jobs, particularly in manufacturing. Now the service economy, responsible for about two-thirds of the workforce in developed countries, is losing jobs as well.

No industry is immune, from medicine to law and all points between and beyond. If a computer program can be written, no matter if multi-tasking or seemingly a task only done by humans, the labor force loses a worker who won’t come back.

And the president, the governor nor your local government entity can stop it.

The Standard & Poor’s 500 stock index companies had one-third more profit the past year than earned the year before the latest recession. They’ve expanded businesses while dropping total employment by a half-million people.

Older generations will remember the cartoon before the movie, a creation of William Hanna and Joseph Barbera called “The Jetsons.” George Jetson was the key character, a family man who worked at Spacely’s Space Sprockets as a digital index operator. By all accounts, it was a middle-class family in a futuristic age.

As the credits rolled at the end, he walked his dog on something resembling an outdoor treadmill, which fouls up and leads him to exclaim, “Jane! Stop this crazy thing!”

Reality today, however, is we’re nowhere close to putting on the brakes. We’re addicted to instantaneous lifestyle choices, actions and reactions, technology that is replacing our workforce.

The crazy thing has no stop in sight.