Filed under: Comment
Ages ago I wrote about an embarrassing episode I had with Jaron Lanier.
Sure, it wasn’t as embarrassing as dressing up as a pirate while a sailor recounted being kidnapped by Somali pirates, but it was close.
Anyway, ever since that day, I have felt compelled to follow the work and thoughts of Mr Lanier. It’s as if it’s my way of making up for the fact that instead of trying to discuss the future of technology with him, I asked if the Microsoft beefburgers were any good.
So recently he launched a new book, however instead of talking about the power of technology, he talked about its potential [and reality] for economic destruction.
The bit that grabbed my attention was this:
“At the height of its power, the photography company Kodak employed more than 140,000 people and was worth $28 billion. They even invented the first digital camera. But today Kodak is bankrupt and the new face of digital photography has become Instagram. When Instagram was sold to Facebook for a billion dollars in 2012, it employed only 13 people.
Where did all those jobs disappear? And what happened to the wealth that all those middle-class jobs created?”
I love that.
Well, obviously I don’t love the destruction of the middle class – I’m not a bastard – but I love that he has come out and highlighted the potential darkside of all this technological advancement.
Of course what he’s saying isn’t new, others have said similar things – including me, which I’m only highlighting because I want to try and associate my name with the brilliance of Mr Janier, even though I rightly don’t stand a fucking chance of that happening – however the example he uses gives us tangible food for thought as opposed to the insane ramblings of those people who try and claim Google is to blame for everything wrong in the World … from the loss of privacy to societies stupidity.
Of course what he says has flaws.
The reason Kodak died is as much due to their lack of innovation as the rise of technology … but while you can’t stop progress, the economy of the future could end up being a pretty bleak for people, society and Governments given there may not be the jobs – and the pay cheques – to fund the lives of the people technology has discarded.
That or maybe humanities survival instinct will kick in and we’ll create jobs that don’t yet exist to keep the food on the table.
Or we’ll all end up working in a call centre … talking to people who can’t actually afford to buy anything anymore.
Jesus, how fucking bleak.
While I’m being extreme, Michael Moore said a similar thing in his first documentary.
GM had just closed their car plant in Flint, Michigan.
Outside the plant were some of the ex-car builders. He was interviewing them when one of them said,
“If companies keep making us redundant to maximise their profit, who is going to be able to buy the products they make anymore?”
Good point, though in the case of Instagram – and now Tumblr – it appears the new economy is not about making products that create sustainable profit, it’s about coming up with something that some fool will pay ridiculous amounts of cash for, based on the ‘strategy’ that ‘if they have it, none of their competitors can have it and end up doing something useful with it’.
Anyway, it’s a great book with some real food for thought and you can buy it here.
19 Comments so far
Leave a comment