"Therefore, send not to know
For whom the bell tolls,
It tolls for thee."
- John Donne
In his latest New York Times op-ed entitled "Robots and Robber Barons" (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/10/opinion/krugman-robots-and-robber-barons.html?_r=0), Paul Krugman observes that corporations are growing wealthier, while labor compensation is down, owing in no small part to advances in technology. Krugman writes:
"Still, can innovation and progress really hurt large numbers of workers, maybe even workers in general? I often encounter assertions that this can’t happen. But the truth is that it can, and serious economists have been aware of this possibility for almost two centuries."
Regarding the resultant damage to the labor force, Krugman concludes:
"As I said, this is a discussion that has barely begun — but it’s time to get started, before the robots and the robber barons turn our society into something unrecognizable."
Query: Is it only "the robots and the robber barons" who are turning society into something unrecognizable? When was the last time Krugman attended a classical music concert? What I find shocking is the virtual absence of persons in the audience under the age of 60.
On the other hand, President Obama and his family will be attending the "Christmas in Washington" concert on Sunday night, which includes a performance by Psy, creator of "Gangnam Style," who, in a 2004 rap song, called for the murder of "Yankees who have been torturing Iraqi captives" (see: http://www.usatoday.com/story/theoval/2012/12/09/obama-psy-gangnam-style-christmas-in-washington/1756667/).
Society long ago turned into something "unrecognizable" for me.
However, I stray from the theme of Krugman's opinion piece.
Do you recall the 1962-63 strike of The International Typographical Union against four New York daily newspapers? Even then, it was clear that automation and other technological advances would eliminate most of the jobs represented by this union, and indeed by the end of 1986, the ITU had all but ceased to exist.
Newspapers in general? The New York Times in particular? All dying. There will always be a news industry, but the manner in which news is distributed is undergoing radical change. Some 40 years ago, I commuted to Manhattan on the Long Island Railroad, and almost every passenger carried his or her copy of The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Daily News or, on the return trip, The New York Post. In our Internet age, printed newspapers, and even printed books, are on their way out, and subscription rates are declining as news becomes available from CNN, Yahoo and Google for free, and tablets replace paper.
Remarkably, I agree with Krugman: Technology will continue to render many jobs obsolete, and I do not foresee a wellspring of employment from new industries for college graduates or anyone else for that matter. I don't fault my niece for leaving college to build a career in restaurant management, where she is blossoming.
Discuss the impact on jobs of technology and innovation? Answer: Should newspapers still be manually prepared by typesetters? It's not going to happen.
And what about Krugman's The New York Times? Is this corporation also a "robber baron"? Be it robber baron or fairy godmother, ultimately the Times is toast.