During a normal commercial flight, a pilot actually touches the controls of her plane for less than three minutes. The rest of the time, the computer called “autopilot” is actually flying that plane, yes, including landing the plane. Pilots have to undergo periodic training so that they will not forget how to fly. How many phone numbers, including your own, do you know by heart, that that we have smartphones to do it for you?
The other day my wife went to the post office with a package for our son. She had written the address in cursive (and she has excellent handwriting, not like yours truly) and, the young lady at the counter told her she could not read cursive. So, my wife had to read the address to her to make sure the package would reach its destination.
There is an old joke about the reporter who was touring a new fully automated factory. Besides the person giving him the tour all they saw was a man and dog. When the reporter asked his host what their purpose was, the host said that the man was there to feed the dog, and when asked what the dog’s purpose was? The host told him to make sure that the man did not touch the equipment.
We are losing the ability to do things with our hands as more gadgets are invented to take care of our all of our needs. Siri or Alexa will play our favorite music, order us a pizza, and set the temperature in our house, or better yet our second home three thousand miles away. There is nothing computers will not do for us.
I was in our public library the other day. I had just finished one committee meeting, and was killing time until the next one started, when it occurred to me that I wished that I had remembered to bring my Kindle, so I would have something to read!
We are actually forgetting how to do things folks. We are losing our craftspeople, we are forgetting how a pencil works (think Outlook) and we are losing our spelling and vocabulary to Spell check. Fascinating!
But why am I bringing all of this up? It’s not because I think that the future is bad, no, not at all. I am not some luddite trying to stop the flow of progress. None of us can stop the flow of progress and that is exactly my point.
Technology rules the world, economics rules the world. We need to stop thinking that politicians can bring back 20th century jobs, they can’t. We need to stop thinking that politicians can change the flow of globalization, because they cannot. We need to stop thinking that maneuvers like tariffs and subsidies are going to change anything. They might delay things but will not change or permanently stop them.
China has already lost 30 million, that’s million jobs to automation, those jobs are not coming back. The coal industry has seen hundreds of thousands of jobs since the 50’s and they are not coming back. Those jobs were not lost by EPA rules, or one political philosophy or another, they were lost because of automation. Coal mining is now done by giant machines not by men with picks and shovels.
Foxconn’s CEO Terry Gou, who has been known to compare his million workers to animals, has said that he is going to replace as many of his workers as possible with robots, saying that robots cost $250,000 each, work 24 hours a day, and are never sick, and so are a much better investment than people. That, ladies, and gentlemen is the future. Except that it is today and if we want to survive we will have to adapt.
If you want to turn to our own industry for example. Whelan industries is making PCBs on a fully automated line. One of the largest PCB providers in the world is making plans to build a shop that will handle $40 million dollars of PCBs with less than 25 people.
Its all pretty scary isn’t it? But as Tony Soprano used to say, “it is what it is.”
So where does that leave the small PCB supplier? We need to specialize, we need to provide the technology, and more importantly that service that only human beings can provide. If you want to know what I mean all, just walk into an Apple store and see the new genius of retail and l see true customer service. Check out Amazon for a great example of ease of doing business. Study the meticulousness of working with any great company that is not inly surviving but actually thriving in this new world order and you will get a good idea of the kinds of things your company should, nay has to be doing in order to survive into the next decade, never mind the next century. It’s only common sense.