More industries transformed by tech revolution – truck driving, legal field

How about truck driving as a threatened field?

The Wall Street Journal article provides a question you may hear soon: Daddy, What Was a Truck Driver?

Truck driving

Dennis Berman reports that while the eventual possibility of autonomous cars gets the publicity today, autonomous trucks will be a big deal soon. The illustration is Caterpillar, which will soon have 45 autonomous trucks, those 240-ton size things, driving themselves around an iron-ore mine in Australia.

Economic theory holds that such basic changes will, over time, improve standards of living by making us more productive and less wasteful. An idle truck with a sleeping driver is, after all, just a depreciating asset.

The downside is the drop in employment for the estimated 5.7 million people in the US who are professional drivers.

The upside is lower costs for companies and then lower costs to consumers.

The downside? Disruption.

But look at this possibility for the future:

That’s a worthy way to understand the future of the truck driver, if we can even use that term. Just imagine, for instance, a supermarket “driver” who rides inside an automated truck, delivering packages and selling services instead of worrying about red lights and right turns.

There would be lots of jobs. However,  they will require different skills.

Lawyers

Megan McArdle describes the collapse of Big Law, which has been discussed many places, in her article When Law Is No Longer a Safe Bet.

The post title is based on the comment given her when she was considering whether to major in English Lit – if you can’t find a job, you could always go to law school.

Those days are gone. She quotes a Noam Scheiber article:

In the past decade, twelve major firms with more than 1,000 partners between them have collapsed entirely. 

The legal field is merely one field in distress. That is not a new thing. Consider this:

In other words, the safe backup is no longer safe. In this, lawyers are going through what rust belt manufacturing workers experienced in the 1970s, middle management in the 1980s, secretaries in the 1990s, and journalism in the 2000s. 

Most of her article points out that most workers for ages past, I’m guessing a millennium or five, have been in precarious positions. Only the union workers in the ‘50s and ‘60s, lawyers for the last 100 years, professions since the ‘50s, and just about anyone with a college degree from 1990 or earlier, had a stable income.

Not so for most people.

Two key sentences. During those wonderful ’50s and ’60s, there were

..a whole lot of people eking out precarious livings as taxi drivers, entertainers, waitresses, and other jobs that could go away at any time.

The fear of losing your income with little notice

…was the actual reality for millions of people during what we think of as “the golden age” of job security. In reality, it was a golden age for a lot of people — union manufacturing workers and college grads — but just as tough as ever for small business owners and their employees. And of course for many people, like the millions of African Americans doing agricultural work or domestic service because racism kept them out of most workplaces, life was very insecure indeed.

Everyone benefits from changes like large companies not have a few hundred clerks manually calculating payroll hours worked, calculating each deduction, and manually posting each transaction to a paycard.  Many of those 40-hour-a-week jobs are done in a few seconds by a file server.

Her conclusion:

But who today would want to get a job as a human adding machine? Progress is never without victims. The beneficiaries, however, are the whole human race.

The future is bright.  The transition will be painful.

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