• Gregory Z. Smith


Updated: Jul 29, 2019

Acción Económica Diversa

We know that the job market is going to continue to change in some radical ways. However, consider what we've seen change in our own lifetimes as well as what has changed in the centuries and millenia before us. Radical change is nothing new, but some things have also remained relatively constant.

Department stores grew over the last two centuries, and they are a relatively recent type of business in a timeline of thousands of years of different businesses. Drug store chains started a little over one century ago. Electronic communication started with the telegraph in 1833, and the last telegraph message was sent six years ago. So, several forms of current communication have grown out of something that only lasted 180 years. However, the combining of retail and electronic communication has meant that the former has become less dependent on "brick and mortar" structures and less dependent on people working in such structures.

Automobiles quickly became something to have, but for their first 130 years, they needed a driver. That is changing now so that the delivery of people and goods from one location to another is also becoming less dependent on people.

Some of the earliest businesses in the world that are still around are over a thousand years old. Three hotels in Japan are over 1,200 years old, and the oldest known company is also Japanese. It is a construction company that was started in the year 578. Here is a quick list of the kinds of businesses that have survived a thousand years or more:

* Hotels - 3

* Construction - 2

* Pubs - 2

* Wineries - 2

* Coin Mints - 2

* Ceremonial Paper Goods - 1

* Restaurant - 1

* Religious Goods - 1

* Bell Foundry - 1

* Confectionary - 1

Eight of the above are in Japan, two are in the United Kingdom, two are in France, one each are in Austria, Germany, Ireland, and Italy.

In the United States, there are still five farms operating now that started before 1700. There are also a music company (originating in Turkey), a hotel, a restaurant, a silversmith, and a real estate company, all that started before 1700.

With the increasing capabilities of machines and computers to do much of what humans currently do and what humans have done, being smart about where we look for the jobs and careers of the future will be very helpful. Certainly, some jobs have simply not been around that long and may not be around that much longer. Others will continue but they may not require humans to do them.

Different forms of construction have been around for ten to fifteen thousand years. We will still require that things be built, and it is still a very serious part of our local economy. What we have to be ready for is that machines may increasingly do the building in the future.

Farming has been around for twelve to thirteen thousand years. We will continue to need food and people to make it available, but again, we may see machines increasingly doing the planting, the harvesting, and the processing of our food in the future.

Music has been around for approximately fifty thousand years. While machines may be able to generate the sounds, it is likely that composition and unique production of sound will still be very human endeavors.

Two dimensional art has been around for at least sixty-seven thousand years. Here again, machines and computers may be able to augment what humans do, but the creative spark remains a human capability.

Story telling has likely been part of the human experience for over two hundred thousand years. Before the written word and on into current times, stories well told are a very human performance art.

Making clothing has been around possibly even longer. It is believed to have started between one hundred and five hundred thousand years ago. Despite its long association with humans, this is probably an endeavor like construction and farming as far as simple production. However, like music, 2D and 3D art, and story telling, the design of other than strictly utilitarian clothing will likely still require human creativity.

Hunting and butchering have probably been around at least 1.8 million years. As we grow less dependent on meat from animals for our nutrition, we may see this profession and livestock farming either become more mechanized or less necessary.

Toolmaking has been a human endeavor for something like 2.6 million years. Simple production of tools is something else that is increasingly mechanized, but the design of the wide range of tools across multiple disciplines may still be very much an entrepreneurial and creative art.

While medicine and formal education may be thousands of years old, they probably started more recently than construction, they seem to have enduring places in our human experience. They also share, like other endeavors, the capacity to be augmented and expanded through technology and the ongoing need for human interaction.

In short, we may be seeing autonomous vehicles and similar capabilities taking human jobs in a few, very short years, but I continue to believe that some endeavors will continue to remain dependent on human creativity, consciousness, and capacity.

In Las Cruces, we need to cultivate our ability to sustain the jobs we will need until machines take over and grow the jobs we will need after others have become the province of autonomous technology.

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