Today I ventured out for a quick lunch and went to one of my favorite fast food places. As I waited in line my attention was drawn from the menu to the lady in line in front of me. It seemed that the register had malfunctioned and the cashier was not able to figure out how much change the woman should receive without the help of the register. The manager she summoned was of no help since she was not able to figure out the change either. The lady assisted in the process, but you could not miss the look of frustration on her face. While my transaction went smoothly, I could not help but ponder how the situation had demonstrated how dependent we had become on technology and the impact it will have on current and future generations.
Best Selling Author Yuval Noah Harari‘s novel Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind addresses just that as it brings into focus what the author calls the “the useless class”, individuals who are pushed out of the job market by innovation in technology. Today technology is making life easier for us as humans, but we must ask ourselves, at what cost? Technology is making things easier and in most cases faster than a human can, so where will that leave the human? One example of that is the implementation of electronic toll collection. Electronic tolls will eliminate the need for toll collectors, a job that is often done by elderly and unskilled individuals who rely on that job to survive. The new system would collect tolls through a transponder system that would deduct from a prepaid registered driver. The system would create jobs, but they will require knowledge and training in advanced technology, something that the average toll taker will not have.
In my lifetime, I have seen the innovation of the telephone from the rotary party line phones that as a child I would listen in to the neighbors conversations to amuse myself to digital land lines. Today, with the advent of the cell phone, the portable attache’ case or car phone have gone from the heavy block phone to small units that fit in your pocket. Today it is not just the rich who have access but almost everyone. AT&T estimates a loss of 50% of their landline service has gone cellular, and with that comes smarter phones that allow us to do so much more.