Dear Gen X, Y and Z….

This cartoon is definitely cringeworthy for our American society at large.  Now that I am retired, with the very notion of a J.O.B. teetering on the horizon of my memory, I am compelled to speak on this issue before I entirely wipe it from my data banks.

My last J.O.B. was one of those soul suckers:  paid marvelously, no traveling involved, a 30 minute auto commute, working on what should have been the ideal “last job” by most measures.  But it sucked.  On my off time I spent hours searching for another job that had similar compensation, but woe, I was at the near pinnacle of pay, and firms only look for younger folks…..like you guys, X, Y, Z.

I was already 70 when I took this job, and I took it out of necessity due to financial troubles, moving four hours away to another city.  Gosh, I hate moving!

Enough about that last J.O.B., or I should say, “the Last Stand.”  What I want to say to you all is, “Don’t go on this way!”  I was my own worst enemy, so don’t let you be your own worst.  I thought I had a professional career (being a licensed engineer), which again, by traditional standards I did.  I had a good run too, but looking back, I see that I could have looked harder at changing my circumstances, and not just have been on automatic pilot like the rest of us Boomers: get married, buy a house, get cars, get dogs, spend all you make every month and more.  Get drunk on weekends after mowing the yard.  Oh, and “kids.” Oh.

There ARE other ways to live your lives.  Unfortunately, Millennials, you may be far along on your “do what Dad and Mom did” fortune, to easily change.  BUT YOU CAN TOO!

As for Gen Y and Z, you guys still have time, and I know first hand that a lot of you, perhaps by necessity rather than choice, are on paths that will not suck your soul:  so as with all things, there is a silver lining to be found in a sow’s belly, and sometimes that just falls into your hands.  What you do with it though is your responsibility.  So you may have lived with your parents, and many of you still are, but this is actually a blessing, for you have the opportunity to find and/or make a path in your life that does require you work for “the man” (in this case, usually a multi-national company) filling a position that likely is of little real interest to you and for which you may feel very inadequate to do.

The first thing to know and accept, is that altering your life in the direction of a SOUL LIFTING job, may require sacrifices and choices that are in the immediate are painful….but rest assured it will be worth it one day.  How long, I can’t say of course, but let’s say 10 years.  That is not a long time, as you will find out as you move through life.

I know it’s difficult to “figure out” what you want, so be open to the universe.  If you are honest with yourselves, authentic in your connection with the universe, you will find yourselves informed in a way “out of nowhere” as to what you should do, or a door will just suddenly open, something different, but with potential for happiness.

So I conclude by suggesting you do this:  tell that SOUL SUCKING JOB to kiss your ass, and go begin a new life!  If you can’t do it now, set a time goal and make the plan you need to do just that!  Before your life is spent, and you live in “wish I had” mentality till you croak.

As for me, I have accepted my life as it was, for it has a lot of quality in spite of the time on the job.  I just want to see others not have to pay the soul reaper to find their bits of happiness.

 

The New Immigrants: Robots

So do we need a “big beautiful wall to keep them out?

The fact is that human immigrants are not stealing jobs; 99% of the jobs they fill few US citizens want to do or even will do.  But today I am not here to debate this moot issue, rather I want the reader to reflect critically on the possible real impact of robotics and AI (artificial intelligence).  I don’t want to look far into the future, but rather just conjecture on say the next 10 years.

Robotics (and AI that controls them) are the new immigrants. THESE new immigrants will take jobs from citizens, yet where is the outcry and concern except from other than a handful of very smart people, Andrew Yang for instance (and myself of course…LOL).

There is no wall that can be built to keep out these agile minded “guys.”  They are coming in caravans and hoards.  Beware.

There are few jobs, especially ones that follow a rather narrow script of activities:  from factory jobs to call centers, that will not be impacted.  Of course call centers largely have been shipped “off shore,” to India and Mexico and Jamaica, et al.  But AI will bring the cost down to the point where multi-nationals opt to just connect you to the big AI help desk in the sky.  So it is not only the United States that will be challenged by these pesky AI creatures, but rather much of the first and second worlds.

If you are in any job that frankly is “low wages,” you really need to be thinking about what to do after you get your notice.  What can you do?  Train in HIGH technology is one option:  smart people first have to make robots and initialize AI programming for these immigrants to perform.  So you can train to become one of the “technologists” or even better, a “keeper,” as I call these new classes of human workers.  Because of the profits from relegating low wage jobs and benefits more and more to the pile of obsolescence, like mining coal for instance, there will be no stopping the tide of robotics and AI, so YOU must RE-INVENT yourself!

This may require MOVING physically to locations where smart jobs are or will be placed, which for now are cities like Austin, Texas for example; to get the type of training you will need you also will likely have to relocate, for a lot of the low wage jobs now are at factories and facilities sited in the heart land of America, plants that will use robotics soon if not already, but who will NOT be offering any education to employees:  they will turn to the universal pool of people who have the knowledge they need, and not be altruistic in retraining their current employees. (I realize some are, but consider fully where that training may lead.  Think BIG PICTURE, LONG TERM.)

So what will be a few of the potential societal impacts of this flood of new immigrants?  There will be effectively created a new age stratification of our society:  an increasing very low income level at the bottom of the economy, increasingly highly dependent on “welfare” (or crime), and sadly, those of color will be triply effected due the present enormous inequities of capital and income;  and right above them will be the Technologists, able to sustain and increase incomes to some extent, but forever locked into the “middle class” state; above these techies will be the “Keepers” of the robotics and AI, highly educated and specialized people whose incomes far surpass those below…..these are the new “doctors, lawyers and engineers” who even today are seeing their heyday wane; then at the very top are the owners of all the robots and all the AI.  These people, mostly people and families who already control most of the capital and wealth in the world, will have incomes that are light years ahead of all others.

The mobility of human workers to move up from the “welfare” class to say the “keepers” level will be close to impossible.  Most everyone will be captive in their respective classes.  But is that much different from today’s scenario?  Not really, but the future does not bode well for a reduction in the number of people and families at the two bottom levels of the hierarchy.  This is why, if you are smart, you will do everything you can to determine what education or training will help you to the next level, and get that training now, no matter what it takes.  The future of yourself, your progeny and theirs depends on conscious decisions you make in the next 18-24 months.

Now there are other choices, if you don’t want to “play the game.”  You can choose to live your life without worrying about income, and be a free spirit, a free agent even, using your common sense, inventiveness and native creativity to enjoy life as it comes.  Become the antithesis of this robotic world, a 21st century hippie, finding novel ways to stay afloat, being aware that within you is the power to live your life unfettered by “intelligence.”  That is not a bad option really.

Looking back on work I have done in my life.

As an engineer, technically trained many seasons ago, I always think of work in terms of the definition one would find in an engineering mechanics or physics book, that being W=F x D (with a cosine thrown in depending on the angle of the Force versus the direction of the Distance.  When I look up “work” in the dictionaries however, I am amazed at just how many definitions apply, and whether it is used as a noun, or one or more of those other things we studied.  When I look for images of “work,” mostly I get people (usually younger folks than I) sitting at computers drinking coffee.

I guess I am just really old school when it comes to what work really is, and frankly although I spent my career mostly sitting at a desk, much of the time on a computer, I never really thought of it as work, just “what I did in my profession.”  In fact, the driving Force that motivated me to make a career of doing what I did, was all the WORK I did in my years in high school, through my first years in college.  The thought that I did Not want to Work at a job that was actually physically hard labor, in not so comfy environments, was the Force that moved me the Distance to get my college degree and keep going on into an engineering career.

I had many different kinds of part-time and summer jobs in my early manhood days.  One summer I spent a few weeks in the Texas sun on a river bed, with my cousin my age and our dads, loading large bleached stones into a dump truck, one rock at a time.  These had to be visually selected to meet specifications, so a hydraulic loader could not be used. Walking around stooped over looking for these stones to be used for landscaping, then bending to pick each up, usually weighing about 5 pounds, then walking to the truck, and pitching the rocks into it, hour after hour all day long is, I guarantee, hard work.  Real Work.

Another job I had, which taught me the flip side of Not doing hard work, was being a life guard after my junior year in high school, at the local town country club pool one summer.  Except for the endless hours of boredom when there were not any cute girls to “keep from drowning,” and my skin peeling a few layers over the three months, it was really Easy money!  I liked easy money, and still do, but seldom see any.

Oh, yes, and I did some cow boy’ing and ranch work, since my family had a nice ranch and livestock that needed tending.  But working for my dad for a roof over my head, food in my belly and a little pocket money on the weekends can’t really be counted as work, can it?

Then there was the part-time job in high school at a service station.  Hardly anyone knows what a service station is anymore, it is a thing of the past, like most service that can’t be done by a so-called “help desk” that usually aren’t very helpful.  I pumped gas, washed car windows, checked tire pressure, fixed flats, including big truck tires that have to be “broken down,” cleaned stinky bathrooms, mopped the driveways, and got paid 50 cents an hour.  Just enough to spend on beer and chasing girls!

One of the hardest jobs I ever had was working with a tree trimming crew all summer, trimming trees and brush from proximity to electric overhead lines.  My basic job was to pickup all the vegetation we cut and place it in the back of a truck.  We would haul it to the local dump (today called landfills) at the end of each day.  As the summer progressed, however, my boss man decided to let me start doing some of the fun stuff, like going up into trees anywhere from 15 to 40 feet off the ground.  How did we do that?  Using basically mountaineering rope, a slipknot and harness, to pull our own weight straight up, a foot or so at a time, until we got to the perch we needed to be at to stand up and then work from there, moving around the large limbs to reach out with a long pruning shear to cut small limbs back from the electric lines.  More than once I saw sparks fly from limbs, so yes it was a dangerous job.

The next summer I left Austin where I was going to college, and went to Houston with some guys to get some high paying work.  We started at a steel mill there on the Houston ship channel, and were laborers in the labor pool, assigned some different hard ass, dirty ass job every day.  The African American foreman over the labor pool I am quite sure saved up all the worst jobs for us white college boys, and he worked our tails off.  After several weeks of this, I was glad to get with my cousin (of the rocks story above) who was a welder working on ocean oil drilling platform construction.  These huge oil derricks were being build right next to the Houston ship channel and when each was completed to spec it was lifted onto a huge barge by HUGE cranes, to be towed out to sea and placed upright.  I worked there as a welders helper.  We literally worked 7 days a week, 12 hour shifts, and my cousin and I were on the night crew.  We often worked 50 to 300 feet off the ground, walking on pipes at times that were no more than 24 inches diameter, with absolutely no fall protection.  And watch out for the grease on the pipes, you damn sure don’t want to slip.  We made a lot of money that summer, but as I recall I spent most even before returning to classwork.  The joys of being a dumb young man, living only for today!

The above jobs are not all I had, but I just wanted to make the point that there is nothing wrong with real work, and I continue to believe it builds character and life values that will stick with a man or woman throughout there life.  When I see people doing hard work on highway construction, or roofing houses,  out in the scorching heat or freezing cold all day, I know many actually feel good when they go home to their families, or in many cases, wire money to loved ones in there home country, but I also know the toll it takes on them over time.  However, this Nation could not do without their labors, so the next time you casually pass by such hard working crews, send them some love ok?  And if you can, get out and do some real work occasionally, for it sharpens the spirit.