The Old, The Young And The Machines In The 21st Century

From our perspective here in the early 21st century, the world is full of contradictory trends, projections and predictions. You can’t help but be confounded by the tidal wave of information. At least I can’t.

Here’s a counterintuitive situation: We have graying populations in major countries, and at the same time, widespread unemployment among young workers? How can that be?

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We Baby-Boomers are only beginning to enter old age. The serious graying of populations in Japan, Europe, America and Canada will be seen in the next few decades. China, the country with potential to most powerfully affect the rest of the world, also will be graying. But China will be graying at an earlier stage of its economic development than Western nations.

A few years ago, we heard predictions of a great shortage of labor due to aging. It was said that old folks would be forced to stay on the treadmill, just to keep the economy going. You don’t hear that much any more.

Now you hear worries about a “lost generation,” their advancement blocked by entrenched middle-aged and older workers. The wringing-out of the economy in the past 10 or 20 years, combined by computerization, has decimated the vast “middle management” that once offered a ladder up from entry-level jobs.

Perhaps the graying of populations will open new opportunities for unemployed younger workers? But how quickly will those opportunities come? And how intense will be the competition for jobs between workers vs. computers and robots?

Many of the jobs that are created will be in low-paying service fields. (Begging the question: Do service jobs have to be low paying?) With or without aging, workers confront an unfavorable convergence of factors: corporate power and greed, government austerity, disappearing unions, emerging computerization and robotization.

It is entirely possible It seems nearly certain that the first half of the 21st century will be a time of economic dislocation, unemployment and austerity. Worst case scenario, in my opinion, is intergenerational conflict. As time goes by, the political power of the fading generation will naturally wane vis-a-vis younger and middle-aged voters.

A hostile disconnect between old and young would have implications for so many important programs: Social Security, health care, education, taxation. Thank goodness the machines can’t vote.

LOLA SEZ: "Don't look at me when you say 'unemployed.' I'm on the job! You don't  see any mice around here, do you?

LOLA SEZ: “Unemployed! Are you looking at me? I’m on the job! You don’t see any mice around here, do you?”

More confounding developments coming soon: Population decline in the Northern Hemisphere and population growth in the Southern Hemisphere? Also, you’ve heard about peak oil, right. I’m asking the question: “Has Walmart peaked?”

— John Hayden

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4 Comments

Filed under Aging, Democracy, Economy, Life

4 responses to “The Old, The Young And The Machines In The 21st Century

  1. I think computers actually create more work. Take your cell phone for example. I used to dial 7 numbers to call anybody. Now I have to: Swipe to unlock (1) press the phone button (2) press the contacts button (3) press to put the cursor in the search box (4) start typing the persons name you want to call. (5, 6, & 7, AT THE VERY LEAST) Select the name (8) press the call button (9).
    So I used to dial 7 characters, now I dial AT LEAST 9. It’s more work than the old way, but nobody notices…

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