Technology Folklore

Nathan Misanthrope was sleeping soundly, exhausted from a whirl-wind tour of his many businesses.

His rest was interrupted with the shadowy arrival of Emily Caruthers, a previous partner, now deceased…..an association which dissolved because of Nathan’s harsh and questionable business practices. She chastised Nathan for his ever increasing disregard for the human side of his ventures, warning that repercussions were inevitable. She went on to advise Nathan that he would be visited by The Ghosts of Technology Past, Technology Present and Technology Future. Emily’s caricature then faded from the room.

While disconcerted, Nathan shrugged off the weird encounter resulting from a late evening snack and quickly went back to sleep.

True to Emily’s word TGOTP (The Ghost of Technology Past) soon paid a late night visit. Her demeanor was friendly and considerate, thanking a very startled Nathan for his attention. Instantaneously they were in an English village where a fulsome tour took them through bustling and prosperous communities.  Belhostes, coopers, cobblers and victualers were a small sample of occupations that kept the citizens involved and busy. Notwithstanding many of life’s indignities, their pre-industrial lives was more or less fulfilling.

Upon his terrestrial return home, Nathan awoke thinking….interesting certainly but without focus or purpose.

The following week a second mystical figure appeared…..The Ghost of Technology Present (TGOTP). He was barely civil….. harsh in dress and attitude. Their journey was extensive, capturing four centuries of inventions all the way from mechanized textile production to steam and internal combustion engines to electricity to sophisticated communication systems to advanced medical treatments. In short, a trip through the industrial revolution from start to finish.

Nathan’s learning……..wealth creation seems to know no bounds. Economists are delighted with the emergence of a middle class. Globally, boundaries to commerce melted away as transportation, communications and financial systems proliferated.  Prosperity blossoms promising political and economic stability. TGOTP noted to himself that Nathan’s observations were selective, ignoring the lack of universality as many lived in abject poverty. Nathan was mesmerized with the show and tell of all things wonderful. TGOTP then quietly faded from sight.

Nathan awoke with a sense of contentment and satisfaction. His Misanthrope world was evolving to his satisfaction.

On schedule, The Ghost of Technology Future (TGOTF) soon appeared, waking Nathan, this time with a real sense of concern. She demanded a quick departure…..urgency was the order of the day

Their excursion encompassed enterprises of every description.   Universally robots performed jobs in all businesses, commercial centers and industries. A combination of artificial intelligence and electronics superseded the more traditional ways of making things happen. The journey was impactful, not the least of which was the scarcity of employees in many industrial, commercial and enterprises.

Nathan rationalized the evolutionary nature of such changes, saying to TGOTF that this path had been repeated many times before, when new always replaced the old. Jobs were lost and others created…..no sweat he said things will work out.

In conversations with Nathan, TGOTF allowed that over four centuries, technology shifts caused the displacement of many workers. No enterprise of any kind was immune from severe dislocations. Historically changes were industry specific, revolutionary and adopted over many years. While difficult for many, the broad consequences were more or less positive.

He went on to say that this current transformation is not the same. The automation, robotic and artificial intelligence triumvirate have no application boundaries. They will be embraced by a broad range of industries simultaneously……happening quickly by any historical standards. Negative outcomes will happen at the same rate.

With that TGOTF, departed. When Nathan awoke he was in a very agitated state, now realizing that employment would be disrupted so rapidly and profoundly that social and economic norms would be threatened around the world. He realized a whole new paradigm was fast approaching.

Responding in a similar fashion to Scrooge’s revelation decades earlier, his attitude shifted one hundred and eighty degrees.  In a moment he was on every form of social media marshaling resources to offset the approaching disastrous changes.

Emily Caruthers, like Jacob Marley, was justifiably pleased with the outcome of her initiative.