Posts Tagged ‘John Henry’

Every once and a while, I find my thoughts torture me, as they swirl in my mind, running back and forth to what is happening to what is to become, and some days, I hate being left alone with only my thoughts because they drive down dark alleys in my mind; many times I’m forced to ride along because I have empty time on the long drive home from work when traffic is tight, and cars inch along with only brake lights in front of me.

I keep the radio off just so I can meditate and reflect on God’s spirit, but some days, I wander away from that task, or maybe I’m not veering off course but simply misunderstanding the source of my thoughts. Either way, something that I’ve wrestled with lately is the effect of technology’s advancement on those that fail to recognize that very advancement.

Last week in one of my many emailed computer newsletters, the editor purposed a question that if we, the IT staff, or better yet, technologists, should feel guilty because the advancement of technology cuts the jobs of other people due to greater efficiency leading to less people being required to do the work.

Now, I’ve always thought about that, but, here, this stupid newsletter trudged up the memories, and soon, all I could think about is “how do we, as a people of God, handle the future and the possibility that technology will replace humans who have families to feed?” In the song The Legend of John Henry’s Hammer by Johnny Cash, John Henry says when confronted with the possibility of the steam drill replacing him and all the other railroad workers:

“I feed four little brothers,
and my baby sister’s walkin’ on her knees.
Did the lord say that machines ought to take the place of livin’?
And what’s a substitute for bread and beans? I ain’t seen it.
Do engines get rewarded for their steam?”

And that’s where these thoughts whip me. I don’t have an answer, but I know that it’s coming here in the United States, what, with Google’s auto-driving car and computers getting smaller and better; it is only a matter of when, not if, it will become a reality where millions of people’s jobs will be replaced by technology that doesn’t complain, works 24 hours a day, never needs a vacation, never gets sick, and has no family to worry about.

Oh, you could say, “we will always need people to work on the machines,” but that’s small thinking. Technology will repair itself. It will build itself, and someday, it will create itself. I’m not talking about a take over of technology, like in the movie Terminator, but I am talking about a time when we no longer need people to perform many of the jobs out there.

Where do they fit in the equation?

Personally, I can already see a divide between those that embrace technology and those that don’t, either because their minds are unable to grasp the concepts (and not because they aren’t smart, but because they are a different smart), because they are too poor to afford the exponential growth of machines, or because they refuse to accept the fact that technology is humanity’s fate.

Do you think what I’ve just described is a possible future for us? What do you think will become of humanity as it races toward this future? Is it the world of “Wall-e” where we just destroy ourselves and our planet because we have nothing to do?

I can tell you this, I don’t feel guilty about the future because I love technology, but I understand that unless we evolve and adapt to this new world, many people will be left behind, and I don’t like that prospect. I guess when it comes down to it, I’m optimistic that we, as God’s people, will solve the problems and live a balanced life with the technology that we built.

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