Over on Engadget today they posted a video of Jesse Jackson, Jr. railing against the iPad and how it has impacted American jobs. I think many of the commenters over there have missed the point.
It’s not in dispute that technology kills industries; cars killed the buggy whip industry. What’s happened in the past is that the shift in technology has created new jobs to replace those lost because of whatever technological revolution has occurred. During the industrial revolution farmers moved into factories and saddle makers started making seats for those new-fangled automobiles.
What Jackson is arguing isn’t that we should force people to buy paper books to save the publishers and librarians (Though he seems to go off the rails a bit and imply that I don’t think that was his intention.), or that technology is bad, but that it’s no longer the United States’ workers that will benefit from this new technology.
His argument is that these new technologies will lead to jobs for other countries labor forces, enriching them, not us. And to a degree it’s true. If you look at China’s rise in global power it has a lot to do with the money that’s poured into their economy by corporations using their cheap labor forces to build our cars, gadgets and knick-knacks.
What Jackson is not acknowledging in this video, or at least the part we’re seeing, is we generally don’t want these jobs here. Often factory work, mining and other jobs of their type are dirty and dangerous and have a negative impact on the environment.
What Jackson should be asking is not how we prevent the loss of jobs for the printers (Publishers won’t actually go away, in fact ebooks might help them.), librarians and factory workers, but how do we create new jobs outside those areas that benefit from the revolutions in technology we will continue to experience.
In the past, part of the answer for how to create new jobs was education. With the cuts to public school funding and the rising costs of a college education that may no longer provide an answer for some.
It’s something that our politicians need to figure out. With their focus on deficits and budgets and a desire from one side of Congress to continue cutting education and services for the poor to the bone instead of focusing on the welfare of the American people I fear it’s not something their likely to figure out soon.