Is the U.S. ready for tech changes?

March 13th, 2014

Improving technology has advantages and drawbacks. On the positive side, it greatly improves our life. Just take a look at smartphones. We can now search for our favorite Indian restaurant, watch movies and search the Internet all on our phones. So what's the problem with technology? Sometimes it means the loss of jobs. New tech made lots of steady jobs obsolete. This two-edged sword was recently looked into in an intriguing new story by the Economist newspaper.

Goodbye jobs

We always hope that technology creates jobs. And in some cases it does. The Economist points out an historical example: Think back at the United States 100 years ago. In those days, about one in three U.S. workers labored on a farm. Today? That's not even close. In fact, less than 2 percent of U.S. workers labor on a farm today.


This hasn't been a negative, though. New technology has enabled farms to provide even more food today with fewer workers. And those workers who once worked on farms? They found other jobs that were made available thanks to technology. That's the way we all want it to work: Technology eliminates some jobs but generates new ones at the same time.

Today's challenge

Finding those different jobs is the key, obviously. It's one thing for technology to eliminate jobs. This is OK if it provides enough alternative jobs at the same time. The problem today is that many people worry that tech is just eliminating jobs, not producing new ones. This, the Economist argues, is where governments come in. It's up to the government to invest in continuing-education programs that will foster the creativity that today's workers will need as a growing number of lower-skilled positions disappear. If the education system doesn't change to meet the needs of today's workers? The country -- and the entire world -- may just be in serious trouble.