Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Silicon War in our pockets

To say that technology has changed the landscape in America, over the past thirty years, is a no brainer. I have this concept in my head and really want to share it with you all, it will take some time to explain. I can say that the sparks for this line of thinking were the electronic billboards along the interstates throughout Cleveland.

As my wife Lisa and I were coming home from her mother's after dusk last weekend, you could see the ever-changing Jumbotron style billboard along I 480 near Lee Road for some distance. Its changing images came into focus as we approached from the east. I was more aware of the sign, since I had remarked that two of the billboards adjacent to the Valley View bridge on I 480 were blank on our way over to Beachwood. Then my mind was flooded with the cold hard reality of our current situation, in America.

We had traded tradition for novelty. My regular readers will recall my reference to the multiplier effect where jobs are concerned when I wrote about the casino in Erie, PA. From this observers seat in our Dodge minivan this sign represented an existential threat to our whole way of life. I asked my wife what about the sign-hanger, printer, truck with crane seller, glue for the sign maker, fuel for the truck, tools for the sign hanger, receptionist at the sign company, people to paint their building, and so on. I will not name all the concentric rings that emanate from a stone thrown into a placid pond, I'm sure you catch my drift.

This is not meant to be a politically charged message, just a common sense observation. All of the jobs mentioned above could easily be filled by a semi-savvy computer user in a small office who opens an e-mail attachment and uploads the image to the sign. This could easily be done from a smart phone by a person eating a scone at a coffee house, while they took 60 seconds away from updating their social media site, or so they could get back to playing Angry Birds.

Typically, Americans can write off these new more efficient methods to a reduction in price by the end consumer. However, the new billboards are the place to be seen if you want to give your product or service the "cool affect." So, the price might even be higher than traditional bill board. I gave up on being cool back in the late 90's. Not withstanding my fashion faux pas, what is to become of all of the workers mentioned above. Could China, where the sign was most likely made, have taken these jobs too?

Some of you might be thinking what a hypocrite, he just got a degree in IT. I was thinking that too. After all we can't all work in the IT field. We need to stop making everything so easy that there will literally be  nothing for many Americans to do. We cannot wall off our nation from imports, that was tried in 1930 Smoot-Hawley Tarrif Act of 1930 Wikipedia and was a failure. When in Rome as the saying goes. However, Rome fell in 486 A.D. I'm just saying. We need to find a balance in our country between having the convenience of smart phones and the reality that semi conductors are making more and more of us irrelevant. I am hurting deep in my soul after writing that last bit, but it's true. There is no need for new bridges and roads if there is nobody left in America to use them; let alone pay for them. I hate to sound cliche, but we really do need to make things here and soon.

We were always told to fear the war with machines thinking they would take on a human-like form and tear us apart from limb to limb. Or worse place us all in pods and use our bodies to produce electricity, like in The Matrix. In reality they are small thin rectangular devices we carry in our pockets, protecting them from any harm. This is "The Silicon War" being waged in our pockets; right under our noses. We might not be playing the violin while Rome is burning just Angry Birds.

While I am aware that trying to stuff this genie back into the bottle is all but impossible. We need to stop thinking that the next iPOD, iPad, or cheaper way to rent a movie will save us all from extinction. I was visited by a very nice young woman last week passing out fliers in opposition to Issue 2 on the ballot this November. I listened and told her I was unsure yet but thanked her for her time. Union members, in the abstract I appreciate what you are trying to do. I really do. You want to get more for the workers at a company. A noble goal, to be sure. However, when we have reached critical mass in America and jobs are leaving or being lost to obsolescence, no matter how hard you fight, if you have all the peanut butter piled up on one small part of the bread it makes for a lousy sandwich. Let us not fight for scraps, let us fight to remain relevant. I will have much more to say going further. Please let me know if you agree or disagree and help me to find a way to sooth those Angry Birds.


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