For those who haven’t read the Judge Dredd stories (I’m not referring to the movie), they take place in a dystopian future (other than Star Trek, do sci-fi stories occur in any other kind of future…) where the predominant theme is that, due to technological advances, very few people have jobs, creating huge urban megalopolises (megalopolae?) where crime is rampant.
With that cheery introduction, we note Matthew Yglesias’ assessment of the news bidness:
You hear a lot of talk about different kinds of ideas to bolster revenue models or get people to read more. But the reality is that the web makes it easier than ever for someone inclined to read things to read them. With global distribution, the same quantity of readers can be supplied by many, many, many, many fewer writers and editors. America produces far more manufactured goods than it did 40 years ago, even as employment in the manufacturing sector has collapsed. News writing seems to be going the same way for similar reasons. The increased productivity is very bad for people counting on jobs in the sector.
On a much smaller scale, we’re seeing this elsewhere: supermarkets and drug stores are using self-operated checkout stations. They seem to be taking hold since they not only save the corporation money, but they are often quicker than standing in line, particularly if you have only a few items.
In Boston, the Public Library has instituted these stations, as well as a self-service reserve book checkout. While I appreciate the time savings (no more waiting to pick up a book while standing in line behind someone who is quoting the Boston Municipal Code in an attempt to avoid library fines–not kidding). But someone has probably lost his or her job with this improvement.
I bring up the library and and supermarkets because there’s a very key point: the U.S. still manufacturers stuff–in fact, we manufacture more stuff than any other country. But we use far fewer people to make said stuff.
Somehow, we have to find jobs for these people, and I’m not seeing a whole lot of green shoots (to use a phrase) from either the Congress or the Obama Administration.
Put another way, what happens when technology kills the service sector too?
Finally, to cheer you up even more, here’s the job growth during the last decade:
And this shows just how much things have slowed down:
(click here to embiggen)
Judge Dredd, here we come….