The Who in “Who does that?”

… “No Service” at your service.

The prevailing counter to low-skill labor pay vs automation is of course improve your skills which too often translates to “get a (free?) degree” then you’ll get a better job.  (one example: http://www.brookings.edu/blogs/techtank/posts/2015/09/30-minimum-wage-and-automation )
 
So, in-spite of a presumed under-/non-employee college graduate  base… let’s make more of them, with higher tuition loan debt…
 
A degree in what?  Education administration? Human resources? Social media ‘arts’? ‘Journalism’?
 
Given the “world of things” the volume is in (automated) production of things, over-worked (underskilled) coding ‘teams releasing crap faster than it can be tested or fixed to run those things. $2/day outsourced call center workers…
 
…and everyone forgets the thousands, millions of other things that make it possible for your personal things to interact with the world of things and pretend to have friends. 
 
Those millions of interconnection things are produced by a lot of automation, but they are implemented by a LOT of highly skilled technical people – people who do not fit the low-skill-$15/hr level nor the “I expect a CxO position paying 7-figures by the time I’m 30” level.
 
Who installs the fiber? Who erects the cell antennas? Who installs the backup generator? Who hooks up the cell radios to the fiber and antennas?  Who fixes it if it breaks?    Who’d you call to get your WiFi at home working? (not some call center… but the smarter skilled friend…) 
 
Who built your work PC? Figures out what you screwed up (too ashamed to tell them), recovers your hardware and data and tells you to stop clicking on sh**?  Who installed the office WiFi and built the rest of your network so you could go on FB and complain about the stupid tech people (who apparently aren’t good enough to keep you from hitting install or delete?)
 
As for all those Who-people existing in Who-ville. THOSE people. How did they get from or around burger-flipper to the millions of essential non-robotic, non-degreed people your so-called life depends on?   McDonald’s and Starbucks don’t teach that stuff!
There are two significant sets of skilled, experienced workforce involved in that invisible infrastructure, the fabric and glue keeping you wrapped warmly in your thing-world:
  • Trades labor – not just brute-force shovel labor but high-functioning, specifically trained, very-skilled operators of complex mechanical equipment – from machine tools to excavators to antenna tower climbers.
  • ‘Technicians’ – from wire and fiber hooker-uppers to the folks who create the operating system image on you work PC to the folks who manage them by remote magic to hands-on repair (and NOT reveal the stuff that shouldn’t be on your work computer) to the kiosk and ATM installers and fixers that help you avoid actually having to talk to real people (you know, the robots you claim could do that burger-flipper job better.)

THOSE people got their jobs out of example, inspiration, imagination, a direct compelling relationship between themselves and those things of the world – much like music or visual arts resonate with some, personally performing actual cognizant work is undeniable for the large part of world between you and food, friends, funds, and freedom to go from one place to another.

A majority of my friends and associates, whether they also got a degree, came from if not still live in this Who-ville of directly interacting with the things that make their world possible, and that they contribute to the world and their own personal well-being, mostly-independent yet largely appreciative of others around them.

That mostly sums up the ‘who’ factor.  The gap is the HOW factor. Perhaps ultimately the IF factor. HOW will the WHO get trained and experienced?  Are their future WHO people or are “burger-flipper” or ‘CxO’ the only options the world threatens/promises?

If you want all that stuff you need, want, cannot live without, to continue to exist, we have to recognize, accept, insist, inspire, promote, support, provide for and make happen the growth and survival of Who-ville. THAT is where a the chances are for more permanent and higher living wages and employment value.  THAT is where happier people ‘live’ in the work world – THEY personally are invested in themselves, their skills, the outcomes.

Ask anyone over 40 or 50 who works at a tech firm, phone, cable, computer, audio-visual, semiconductor, radio-TV broadcast, public safety, what they have seen in the last 10, 20, 30 years of their arrival and growth in technical services delivery, and what is so suddenly happening now – major attrition without backfill. Ask friends in the trades as well.

No one is looking over their shoulder to learn what they know, do what they do.  Consumers and thus management are expecting, forcing automation and off-shore displacement, cute little i-things, to do physical, tactile, analytical and conclusive technology delivery – with eventually NO one left to do it.

The past 5-10 years have been very telling as the first of the “golden age of hands-on technology” began to retire. Now those of us toward to middle to back-end of that ‘generation’ are now beginning to retire or had career or life re-directions that take us out of circulation, away from those who would might possibly get the inspiration, examples and guidance to options beyond “burger-flipper” and more modestly below “future CxO.”

That sucking sound in the background is not just social anxiety about politics and chalk writing… it’s of all those wires, connections, devices, pipes, roadways, bridges… being devoured by the black hole between “never amount to anything” and “deserve anything you want.”

In another 10, 15, 20 years all those renewable energy driven things simply might never increase or if broken work again, because you cannot reach anyone at the call center who couldn’t come out and install or replace those things. The burger dispensers won’t work. Your Tesla won’t recharge. You couldn’t pay anyone anything to do stuff for you because the ATMs and tap-to-pay don’t. “No Service” is the norm in more ways than one.

You want fries with that… but you can’t always get what you want.  Seriously, in fact, you won’t be able get anything you want. Some of us will just make and fix what we want… while we still can.

 

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