Current Trends

Ever since computer was a word in our lexicon, even if they did take up an entire room, a robot came into our understanding, even if it was only imagination of a distant future, ever since science fiction became a genre, the idea of a jet pack became a thing of science fiction, flying cars the product of The Jetson’s cartoon, technology has fascinated us. From its possibility, its potential to make our lives easier, cure disease, even save, prolong life, to its ability to generate fear about what technology will do to key parts of the human condition, social interaction, medical science gone too far, horrific robotic hybrids, human cloning, job markets, economies, societal function; technology has been an ongoing source of debate for over the last half century. In fact from the onset of the industrial revolution and the transcontinental railroad some have welcomed technology, some have balked it, others shunned it completely. Today computers have graduated from rooms to our pockets, aka our smartphones, to tiny pill sized ones that can see inside our bodies, for everyone who fears that dreaded colonoscopy. Speaking of which, medicine can do wonderful things; whether it’s transplanting organs, separating conjoined twins, using harvested stem cells from a patient’s own body to treat everything from cancer to genetic anomalies, spinal cord injuries, its future ability to treat burns. And yes computers, technology have transformed the working world, be it large farm equipment to the number of robots seen in manufacturing facilities, kiosks that have replaced human beings in airports, automated phone systems that have overtaken switchboard operators, receptionists, expanded ATM’s overseas allow people to pay their major bills utility, phone, internet, cable, cellphone providers by pressing a few buttons. The exact subject of a recent online article detailing the jobs that will likely be extinct in 10 years or at least rare, jobs we should all be hoping, for the sake of our sanity, sure as he heck are here in 10 years; unless we want to be a cross between insular little weirdoes and a version of the mad hatter, driven batty by all this technological betterment.

Go here to browse jobs nonexistent in 10 years

Take the first example in the given slideshow, retail cashier, forget for a moment the impact on the economy of no longer having jobs for low skill workers, simple starting points for young workers looking to ease into the workforce, hold a basic job for pocket money; independent of old fuddy-duddies, people dubbed religious fanatics who believe unmanned teller stations, ticket kiosks, movie rental hubs, self-checkouts are heralding in a scene out of the book of revelations, next stop mark of the beast, eternal damnation. Putting aside the biblical proportions and implications, individuals, young or old, religious, non-religious, who frankly don’t want to hasten the day we all have barcodes on or foreheads displaying our bank account balance to one machine, our medical history to a robot charged with dispensing treatment, care, preventative measures, our traffic history to the police, car insurance carrier, spending habits to our financial adviser now an A.I. with one of those off-putting computer generated voices, and let’s think practicality. While it may be more than marginally appealing to finally be rid of the rude, no interpersonal skills sales clerk, to never again have to be insulted by a person getting paid to provide you customer service, no longer feel the pressure of the pushy salesman using used car variety tactics to sell you that computer, sweater, TV exc.; likely gone then too is store personnel to tell you where an item you’re looking for is in a vast store such as Wal-Mart, Costco, Big Lots,  sans wandering around in circles. Worse those using in-store, futuristic computer displays specifically to solve this problem will doubtlessly still be subject to wrong information, outdated information, not be able to find the newest products because you are in the store before said computers have done their daily update, mistype something, misspell it, no luck getting what you came there for, no luck finding a person to ask where it is, known as the new shopping hell. At least under current systems there is supposed to be a human being there to help you, human beings who can understand human speech patterns, thought processes and correlations better than any computer to date; a conversation with a sales clerk about where this is can lead to greater satisfaction, store loyalty and better business. As much as we would all be happy without  the teeny bopper daydreaming instead of checking our groceries expediently, the warn out looking granny moving at a snail’s pace when the line is already backed up, you have 3 items and places to be, no matter how tired we are of being glared at because our cellphone rang and we deigned to answer our boss, in the interest of keeping our job, simultaneously waiting to finalize our store transaction, as upset as we get when grocery baggers smash our eggs, squash our bread, through sheer inattention, nearly breaking brand new plates, bowels, cups, a relatives fragile Christmas gift because of careless handling, has anyone actually tried to use those self-checkout stands?  Now the article section is predicated on just how laughably outdated current models will be in 10 years; however, the existing ones are bad enough to swear people off of them for about that long. Self-checkouts operating in stores today consume identical amounts of time compared to their manned counterparts if you have more than 5 items to check, present a hassle to people trying to check large quantities of items or bulky items; learning how to operate the machine is one thing, usually an overwhelming jungle, but navigating known problems within these systems is another. Anyone who has used a debit, credit or electronic assistance card has inevitably been subject to the ‘card read error’ that necessitates a cashier scan it on their side or it be overridden and scanned again, incorrect PIN is a related reoccurring problem, not because you mixed it up between your computer password, your employee access number at work, part of your social security number, rather because there is actually something wrong with the machine; these occur on the POS (point of sale) devices we have all come to know too alarmingly frequently to be discussing  total elimination of cashiers.

Read above links to see the shocking reaction to less tech savvy citizens

And that isn’t the only problem, considering the target hacking scandal, who wants to use their debit or credit card one swipe more than they have to; sure there is talk regarding adding microchips to cards, increasing security around PIN numbers as well as better notification to possibly compromised customers, only fueling the barcode on the forehead paranoia. Yet putting cash into the machine is exactly like putting it into a soda machine, chances are it will get jammed, not accept excessively wrinkled bills, eat your hard earned money, be empty and incapable of giving you change only on a much larger scale than the 1.25, 1.50 for a drink. But using a throwback to the 90’s paper check unfortunately has to be cleared by an attendant. Add it to the miasma that is self-checkout in 2014 and it’s a recipe for a frustration nightmare; enter in every younger generation critic who is hopping mad, denigrating human intelligence, demanding people complete an IQ test before usage, lining up with adjacent comments on “breeding”/driving, thus too vastly complicating things exponentially for the consuming public. All parties failing to realize the problem with self-check isn’t the lady (conveniently left out of typical rants, her age, ranging from 40-70) didn’t know where the scan gun was or how to operate it, or that buying bread at Costco you must buy two loves, scan it in a special place, the extra loaf to match the picture via electronic mirror image, nor that she had trouble finding barcodes, she was clueless as to how to use the scales for produce, that she (gasp) didn’t hang the scan gun back up properly so the register didn’t print her receipt. It’s that the grocery scanning, item scanning, barcode, POS device system on the whole has been broken for years needing significant upgrades before self-check can just function, never mind be the quickest way out of stores; incidentally what it was sold to shoppers nation/worldwide as. Few, regardless of generation, have noticed checkout would be so much easier, average person or trained cashier, if the barcode were on every inch of the item instead of being in only one place forcing us to flip it eight ways to Sunday to locate, and then scan it. Secondly touch screens that are true touch screens vs. the order online kiosks present in both Wal-Mart and Target that, contrary to touching the item, the tab choice, the drop down menu option you want, you must use your finger to drag the mouse arrow to it then touch it, hoping the highly warn out from over usage apparatus works as designed, to say nothing of looking like something people played Space Invaders on in the ‘80’s, not any computer we’ve utilized since Windows 95. Kiosks not only taken advantage of in baby and wedding registries but in conjunction with cash to gift card purchase methods avoiding the credit/debit security risks, the one cent processing error issue meaning no merchandise for you doing it on your home PC with a prepaid gift card. Lastly POS devices that work, no matter which way you scan the god forsaken card it scans, devices absent card reading errors, PIN malfunctions; here is the problem not payment method or intelligence.

Next the United States postal service, yes, yes we’ve all heard about their billion dollar losses, we’ve seen the slow dwindling and decline in brick and mortar post offices, iconic blue postal boxes, are no doubt incredulous over the ever rising cost of a first class stamp. At the same time we appreciate the ease and simplicity sending a quick e-mail, e-card or Instagram to say thank you, happy birthday, congratulations, many preferring social media postings sent en-masse to their entire friends, family, coworker, acquaintance list, less cumbersome than individual letters, free except for the cost of internet we can do so many other things with.  Nevertheless forgotten seems to be what important informational documents are transmitted by the national postal service. More than birthday cards and thank you notes, personal letters, utility bills, legal notices, medical statements are also transferred through the mail. True people daily chose to put their monthly bills on automatic withdrawal facilitated via their bank, opt for electronic  billing, bank, insurance, credit card statements; adhering to the concept it is environmentally friendly and to the computer savvy, reduces hassle, clutter. Social Security made headlines taking the huge steps to stop printing paper checks to recipients mandating the direct deposit alternative; left out of the conversation is both the bigger, deeper question about why the postal service is losing so much money and the resounding impact of utterly dismantling national, government run mail and package delivery. The postal service is virtually bleeding money because of the way government demands they structure their worker pensions; unlike other companies, government entities on a pension program, they are forced to have on hand the funds to cover employee pensions years and years in advance of retirement, stipulations democratic lawmakers have pleaded to change coming up against tone deaf party opposition. Apart from older people needing a paper statement to understand their bill, lacking a computer to conveniently pay routine bills online, struggles to understand, be able to pay utility services online, at a library, let’s say especially in regimented daily time limits, disregarding widely known increased processing times accompanying online payment creating a hardship to those living paycheck to paycheck, barely able to make ends meet; we remain a nation experiencing broadband blackouts, wireless dead zones severely restricting what people can do on the internet, severely restricting service choice, situations that must be wholly remedied before we voluntarily drop low tech options. Ability to stop national postal service is founded in the, taken for granted, stability of the internet, stability of our technological world that is notoriously unstable. Beyond security issues raised by hackers, hackings onto government agencies, i.e. the pentagon, obtaining personal information of military service members, vulnerability of credit and debit cards, is what would happen if it all imploded, the framework we understand as the internet collapsed under the strain put on it from the sheer number of things society forces it to do shopping, banking, bill paying, retirement, assistance applications, job application, filing taxes and on, and on, and on. Dooms day apocalyptic television, movies tendency to be farfetched notwithstanding, how effected we would be should war, global catastrophe, sabotage to electrical grids and other strategic functions critical to our survival occur, electromagnetic pulses and similarly generated fields and waves that can disrupt internet, fry computer circuits, wreaking havoc on every piece of electronics including those holding your bill paying history, your bank statements, the receipt for furniture you just bought, proof of insurance. TV spots promoting the merits of the postal service got it right; a refrigerator has never been hacked, an online virus has never attacked a cork board, something to think about.   

Fortunately there is much more tangible, far less outlandish proof the United States postal service remains the fastest most reliable way to transmit correspondence, deliver packages; a hitherto unrealized reality that slapped many consumers in the face over Christmas as UPS and Fed-X majorly dropped the ball on delivery promises, leaving one woman with live lobsters two days late Christmas eve, Christmas day dinners come and gone. Others had nothing to put under their holiday tree, missing the gifts they intended to give out of town, out of state visiting friends, family members. Further calling into question their capacity to potentially take over delivering what little paper mail their might be 10 years from now. Evolving different delivery methods are in the works yet facing monumental and not so monumental hurdles; Amazon founder Jeff Bezos wants to establish a network that could put most packages on the doorsteps of purchasers within 30 minutes. Certainly a wow factor there; sadly, or not so sadly to people who enjoy bright blue skies, impeded by the FAA refusing to allow GPS drones to operate on U.S. soil. Drones being tested are also hampered by limited flight time measured in minutes, going too easily off course, blocked GPS in urban areas, inability to avoid moving objects; using drones to deliver items began as a joke, as a promo ad for dry cleaners, Domino’s Pizza upped the ante showing it could be done with food, seemingly giving Bezos the larger encompassing idea. Looking to who’s using them, who could be using them in 10 years, garnering pictures of real-estate, cost saving border patrol and major retailers taking products to the sky; airspace congestion becomes a caution, worries flyers of larger aircraft, passenger planes, helicopters prevented from seeing them due to their relative micro size. Average persons, anticipating or dreading drone delivery, would soon have other issues; theft of home delivered packages was highlighted by ABC News over the holiday season. Most often neighbors snatching waiting packages while intended owners were at work; too, some things are just not conducive to being delivered this way. Putting heavier than 5 pound items and things containing hazardous materials like alkaline batteries into another category entirely, who wants to take the chance their dry cleaning they paid for not only getting dirty again but possibly totally ruined because during new super express delivery it fell into a puddle, came in contact with trash, was shredded coming too close to bigger aircraft; do you want your pizza, take out smashed, spilled, toppings decorating the inside of the box, because of what someone deems progress?       

Since the first generation i-phone the saying has been there’s an app for that, apps combining your smartphones GPS transmitting your location allowing you to hail a cab minus standing on the curb getting splashed by rain, snow, cinders, street sweepers, possibly run over by reckless drivers, cutting out the redundant, sometimes harrowing, conversation between you and the cab company to meet your transportation needs. That’s the future, specifically the 10 year outlook according to the article making the cabbie dispatch system decidedly old school. Hold on, removing taxi dispatchers actually is more complicated than it sounds; doing so is based on the widely held, only partially true, maxim we do everything with our smartphones, assumes all persons who want, need, depend on a taxi service will be in possession of a smart variety phone in 10 years. Forgoing the number of existing owners who indeed have a cellphone, it makes calls, gets calls, contains voicemail, uncomplicated apps for sports, news, weather, bargain basement games unimpressive to the smallest child, scores of users don’t utilize one that is on either the i-phone, Android, Blackberry or emerging Windows  platform; result, taxi summoning app(s) are inaccessible to thousands. Like above, huge sections of the country are GPS signal impenetrable, wireless dead zones, network coverage depending on your service provider, multiple networks only servicing pockets of consumers, factors rendering apps worthless. Outside fundamentals of where the technology isn’t, smartphone means inherently increased expense; you average smartphone ranges between $50 and $200, not including the data plan, 2 year contract you must agree too. Unlocked phones you can take to any carrier cost 2 to 3 times that, neither including the needed plan or anti-virus, spyware/malware software, a growing requirement to keep your phone safe thanks to world wide web connectivity. This vs. economical brands, venders Straight Talk, TracFone, Go Phone who do offer ‘smartphone’-esque options differentiated by which underlying brand you buy LG, Motorola exc.; they are pushing into app capable phones with extraordinarily cheap monthly plans, $7.99/9.99 per month, vs. popular brand name wireless plans $50 to $150 per month. However, the lion’s share of said customer base is similarly attracted to their phones for their simplicity as well. Speaking of safety, health concern has always been a topic with these phones; long before texting and walking, distracted driving amplified by widespread phone usage, increased capacity to complete tasks, there were then cancer risks, particularly brain tumors. Though speculations were slowly debunked, new problems continue to arise such as the student whose pants caught on fire while her phone was in her pocket; heat remains an ongoing red flag in the latest version of the i-Pad, meaning maybe we don’t want all these ‘smart’ devices. Nor do we want transportation choices to be limited to unsafe, unsavory cabs doing things the old fashioned way, especially the most vulnerable, people, the poor, the elderly, a child without a cellphone unexpectedly in need of a cab perhaps.       

Word processing has changed exponentially over the years, going from those old manual typewriters recently shown to a group of elementary students, one thought it was an old cash register circa the 1800’s, to the electric typewriter often including a spell check alert, spacing choices, typeface options surpassing its predecessors, to of course the computer revolutionized by Windows 95 and advancements in Microsoft word going all the way up to today’s hottest PC trends. Presently dictation software is dominating the market; why waste time and frustration, for all of us who weren’t, aren’t natural born typists, manually imputing information, creating documents, wearing out your fingers and thumbs, a quick route to carpal tunnel, arthritis when we can talk and the computer will display words, obey commands at the sound of our voices? A secretary, receptionists dream right, employment hope to all those who will never reach the coveted 80 plus words a minute; unfortunately dictation programs necessitate extensive training to recognize each individual’s unique speech pattern, a process that must be repeated so much as having coworkers swap computer terminals. Causing problems for employers attempting to trash their keyboards, absolutely unworkable in a cubical style office set up fostering poor concentration and noise interference; the latter rendering dictation useless. Thus concurrently exposed, gaping holes exist in trying to outfit stores with a cross between Dragon’s dictation and Apple’s SIRI; costs aside, glorified touch screen AI’s replacing people doesn’t work or is hugely discriminatory to multitudes of immigrant shopper’ accents unreadable to kiosks, speech impediments, soft voices, sufferers of vocal cord, throat injuries unrecognizable to a product finder, store mapping interactive interface spelling bad news for retail business. Frankly social media management sounds like a trumped up job invented to give annoying millennials something to do, but its phasing out would align with current employer practices adding to pay-rolled employees’ job descriptions rather than hiring additional workers.

Unmentioned is march of technology’s impact to people with disabilities; where we may be in 10 years medically is irrelevant when we will still possess sections of the disabled population unaffected by common medical advancements related to their ailment, experiencing marginal success when subjected to advanced treatment; dealing with the prolonged wear and tear on muscles and joints stands whether you cure, correct the underlying cause of  conditions like cerebral palsy, should we ever possess the ability, never mind 10 years from now. Simultaneously the elderly, baby boomer retirement has yet to peak and a significantly recurring large number are slated to retire yearly spanning the next 20 years; translation, either way, people who may already have pronounced difficulty retrieving their items do not need/want to have to expend energy bagging groceries too on top of complicated self-check stations. Independent of what an asset assistive technology has been to people with profound disabilities allowing them to use headsets focusing eye movements on letters to draft answers then use the computer as their voice to order a drink at a counter, tell caregiver they are hot or cold, there is no such interface on current terminals; 10 years or no, there probably wouldn’t be on early generations actually permanently substituting workers until various disability services advocated for it,  petitioned amendments to the ADA (Americans with disabilities act). Meantime, individuals living with severely compromised motor control, severe cerebral palsy, Parkinson’s and other trimmer producing diseases who can’t bring their finger or hand up to a touch screen accurately making choices, are supposed to what, not shop, forfeit their sliver of independence for want of a human being who can help them? And if the vitriol aimed at them is anything like the debasing comments made referencing people honestly attempting to navigate new checkout lines, we’re in for terrible times. Despite the dubiousness of the article, commenters complaining about misleading and omission of facts, we do see increased automation in the workplace and as end users interacting with computer terminals instead of people, the current status of Amazon projects and the postal service is accurate, looming over our heads is where technology is leading us, where technology leaves human beings in more and more aspects of society. Lastly we can’t manage, control the technology we have, we have yet to learn the balance between gadgets and human interaction on a personal or employment level; the farthest thing we need is to choose less/no human interaction.