When one door closes another door opens; but we so often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door, that we do not see the ones which open for us.
~ Alexander Graham Bell
Not too long ago I found myself in the parking lot of our local stadium attending a tailgate party before a football bowl game hosted by our city.
I was an invited guest of my friend Steve, so I didn’t really know many of the 50 or so other guests in attendance, but I found it very easy to join in with other conversations not unlike attending a wedding or industry mixer.
With a beer in one hand and a plate of chicken wings in the other, I moved from one small group to another.
Many of the conversations concerned themselves with the sport of football or vacation plans for the holidays, but it was one discussion in particular that caught my ear.
The topic being discussed was that of the recent presidential election and how jobs that had been moved to Mexico, India and China during the previous administration were going to immanently return to the United States.
One participant explained that he believed that Mr. Trump would raise tariffs as to make foreign made goods more expensive thus creating a more level playing field in terms of increasing domestic manufacturing.
Another person chimed in, adding that removing environmental and bureaucratic mandates would spur hiring by companies too afraid to grow due to governmental regulations currently in place.
The third guy spoke up, "Well I know one thing for sure... my job is safe for a long, long time".
I had to bite at the bait, "What is it you do exactly?"
"I’m a long-haul truck driver... there is no way that my job is going to China any time soon".
I was planning on offering the group my own opinions on the topic... but in the end I decided it was best to walk away, enjoy my beer, and join another conversation.
What I would have told them, had I stayed, was that the world has changed and industrial employment is in permanent decline... not only in America but the rest of the world as well.
As recently as June of 2015, two Ball State University professors published a comprehensive study showing where manufacturing production in America, during the period of 2003-2012 actually grew 17.6%... however manufacturing employment in the U.S. actually declined 5.6M people during this same period.
What the researchers determined was that only 13% of this job loss was due to foreign trade (American jobs moving to another place in the world)... the other 87% of job loss, was due primarily to higher production.
In other words, it took a lot less people to produce a lot more goods.
The greatest contributing factor to the decline in employment was directly due to factory automation.
Robots don’t take mandated coffee breaks, stop for lunch, or get paid time and a half for time worked beyond the 8-hour work-day. They don’t commute so they are never late, they don’t call in sick, or take a two-week vacation to Europe in August.
They just keep working and working... 24-hours a day, 7-days a week.
Perhaps you might have read on your favorite internet news site that a fully-automated restaurant was recently opened by McDonald’s in Phoenix (don’t worry... it was a fake news story)... however more and more fast-food locations are installing ordering kiosks whereby a customer no longer will be asked by cashier, "do you want to ’super-size’ that".
Amazon, which currently employs 270,000 workers, is investing significant resources in automating ordering and warehouse functions... as well as recently receiving permission by the FAA to begin using low-flying drones as delivery vehicles.
Not to be outdone, Uber has rolled out Uber Freight, a package delivery service... which will soon be "manned" using driverless vehicles.
How far behind will automated over-the-road trucking, when driverless vehicles begin to gain a foothold.
My tailgate friends might believe that high tariffs, low governmental regulation, and jobs that have been historically done by human beings will cause a new flood of domestic employment, however, I believe that they are sadly mistaken.
So at this point you might be asking yourself, "why is Jim painting such a bleak picture of our future?... he is usually a lot more optimistic".
The point I’m trying to make today is not that all is lost... on the contrary... today there is more opportunity than ever to create something really great...
..but the first thing we need to do is to understand that we can never go forward by going backwards.
Paradigms are rapidly shifting before our very eyes and pretending that they don’t exist won’t help to prepare ourselves for the future.
I suppose it’s the same way many people look at health... they figure that they are healthy today... so why all this fuss about exercise, nutrition, sleep, and stress reduction... let tomorrow take care of itself... I’m doing fine today.
The reality is that the world is rapidly changing in warp speed... some for the good... some very concerning...
It has taken the world nearly 40 years to fully realize much of what we tend to think of as technology... mainly in the form of computers, communications and connectivity... however some of the greatest technological advancements are still coming are in the form of bio-technology.
The ability to turn off and on certain genes at will... completely reverse the aging process... developing a smart immune system that can prevent disease and harmful mutations (cancer)... as well as decoding the inter-working of the human brain could bring us countless new opportunities in near future.
In the same way, the 1980’s ushered in the computer age... the 2020’s and beyond will open the door to a new world of bio-technology, energy creation and storage, the way we educate ourselves, demand manufacturing (think 3-D printing), and super-sonic travel.
These and other industries will provide us with countless opportunities to find success...
...if we are willing to focus our attentions on what lies in front of us rather than continuously looking backwards, futilely trying to stop time from advancing forward.
The time is now for us to start preparing ourselves by developing new skills that will be needed to thrive in the new world ahead of us...
This way we’ll be ready to open the door when opportunity knocks.
Thank you for your support of OptiFuse where we look forward to embracing the opportunities heading our way.
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