Arlo and Janis (AMS) have spent a delightful week or so griping about modern times, and this one hit a particular nerve, because I see cars with touchscreens on the dashboard and wonder if that’s any more or less a hazard than a hand-held phone, the use of which is illegal here and in quite a few other states.
Well, apparently Arlo and Janis and I are not the only people questioning the technological improvement, both for safety reasons and because people just don’t want to fuss with touchscreens while they’re trying to drive. Mercedes is not bringing back knobs, which won’t impact me a whole lot, nor is GM, which doesn’t have a sterling reputation for competing beyond name recognition.
But it is nice that other carmakers are responding to consumer preferences.
The complaint that it takes away jobs, first of all, ignores all the things we do for ourselves. Not only did we used to rely on bank tellers to cash our checks and service station attendants to pump our gas, but stores once had “shop girls” to fetch things off shelves, rather than grocery carts you filled yourself.
Heel-dragging Luddites aside, with an unemployment rate of 3.4%, complaining about lost jobs is particularly silly. Our roadsides are festooned with help wanted ads, and a store with eight or ten check-out lines rarely has even half of them open.
As for being in the mood for human interaction, prodigious number of those open lines are staffed by new hires who have enough on their minds just doing the job, never mind interacting with anybody. If you shop the same store regularly, you learn who’s fast and efficient, but those people get bumped up to middle management and only take a shift on the cash register when the store is flooded.
Dagnabbit, I remember the days before self-check and even before scanners, and a woman named Lucy who could hold a friendly conversation while she quickly rang up your groceries. But in them-thar days, you started as a bagger and moved up to stocking shelves before you were allowed to be a checker. It took a couple of years.
Bring back those nimble, experienced checkers and I’ll go back to using them.
But to do that, you’d have to bring back 7.5% unemployment. Otherwise, grocery stores have to take who they can get.
In other words, self-check doesn’t cost jobs. It reflects the lack of applicants.
Speaking of hiring issues, Alex does a nice whiplash gag with these bankers contemplating a sort of gap-year plan that, instead of enhancing the quality of their hires, turns out to be geared towards stamping out their dreams.
I like the idea of gap years between high school and college, though my generation never thought about stepping off the conveyer belt. And, if we had, the guys would have risked spending our gap year on our bellies in a rice paddy.
In more peaceful times, however, it’s a nice idea to step back and find out what you actually care about, beyond the things you’ve been told you care about. My grandfather told of knowing a guy in World War I who had gotten all the way through college and law school before realizing he didn’t want to be a lawyer, so joined the army as a way out of the dilemma.
But the twist here comes at a good moment, because I just read a thing about how people need to learn critical thinking and suchlike, and it reminded me of when we were all told how corporations liked liberal arts majors because they were so innovative and creative and good at problem solving.
And then we graduated and sold vacuum cleaners, flipped burgers and wished we’d majored in something that actual for-real corporations actually truly looked for.
F Minus (AMS) approaches technical change on a more creative level, and cell phones have genuinely rendered some storylines obsolete, unless you add a particular twist of someone dropping their phone in the water or inadvertently leaving it home or blundering into a dystopian wilderness without coverage.
Call it “Deus done Executed my Machina.”
On a real-world level, it means that, if your car breaks down on the highway, people are less likely to stop to help because they assume you’ve called AAA and are just waiting for the mechanic.
For fiction writers, it means you can’t base an entire comic strip on the fact that police now have radios in their patrol cars, and you can’t leave your characters stranded and imperiled simply by cutting a phone cord.
And you can’t write songs like Memphis, Tennessee in which pay phones and operators figure or ones in which girls stay home hoping the phone will ring or ones like Sylvia’s Mother that make youngsters wonder why he didn’t call her on her own phone.
Kids in the future also wouldn’t understand this Moderately Confused (AMS) gag, but because of a different kind of obsolescence. She speaks a truth that the streamers are starting to recognize, to their chagrin.
It’s not that they killed the goose that laid the golden eggs so much as they found out there’s not a lot of meat on a goose.
As Alex Sherman explains in that CNBC article
The race between the biggest media and entertainment companies to add streaming subscribers, knowing consumers will only pay for a limited number of them, is finished. Sure, the participants are still running. They’re just not trying to win anymore.
To begin with, cord-cutting doesn’t save you a lot of money, unless you live in a city where you can put up an antenna to catch local channels and you don’t care about CNN, MSNBC, Fox or, for that matter, ESPN. Otherwise, you’ll still end up paying for some kind of connection, plus Fubo or Sling or You Tube Television, which combination might save you 20 or 30 bucks over cable.
Which you will promptly piss away on Netflix and Paramount and Disney and more, until, with $20 here and $20 there, you’re spending far more money than you were before, and beginning to realize that you can’t watch them all but you still have to pay for them all.
And now, like the woman in the Stahler cartoon, people are beginning to wise up.
As a result of which a lot of white collar types who worked for streaming services are stretching that 3.4% unemployment rate out of shape.
Funny old brave new world.