Future shock and its frightening implications
Perceptions by Gerry Warner
“The future ain’t what it used to be.”
So said the great philosopher and sage Yogi Berra many years ago and the great Yankee catcher said this long before the Internet, Goggle and Apple began changing the world in ways none of us could imagine. And as Yogi might have said, “it ain’t over until it’s over” and that’s what’s so frightening because it’s not over yet.
For instance, I have a son who recently became a doctor. What more could a retired father hope for as he begins the inevitable slide into his golden years? Except it may not be so golden thanks to robots, smart phones, and the latest “aps,” which threaten to make doctors redundant. No kidding!
Robots are already doing surgery at hospitals around the world and in many cases their computer-driven fingers (claws?) and silicon brains enable them to open up their patients and remove tumors and diseased organs with more precision than any surgeon. This ain’t the future. It’s now! And the implications for the medical profession are surely obvious.
There’s also something in the development stage called the Tricorder X, a portable, wireless device that will fit in the palm of your hand and analyze your health status utilizing numerous biological markers that previously had to be found through a personal examination by a physician and referral to a specialist, which could take weeks or even months. Not only will the device provide an accurate diagnosis, but it will tell you the pill or therapy you need while cutting out the middleman, which of course is a doctor. A $10 million prize is being offered for the first company to market this futuristic device and when it happens the medical profession will never be the same because patients will have the power to diagnose and heal themselves without the intervention of a doctor.
If technology is going to change medicine to this degree, what else is it going to do? Will electric cars eliminate the gasoline engine and put the big oil companies out of business? Don’t laugh! Remember Kodak? In 1998, the company employed more than 170,000 and had a virtual monopoly on the photography industry. Less than two years later as digital cameras came to the fore, Kodak filed for bankruptcy protection and its employees gathered around the company’s headquarters in Rochester and watched it being demolished while taking pictures of it with their digital cameras.
That’s how fast technology moves these days. Then there’s the advent of the driverless car, which are already on the road in California and likely to go into general production sooner than we think. And if their engines are powered by batteries instead of gas the “Big Three” automakers of the future will be Google, Apple and Tesla instead of General Motors, Ford and Toyota.
What about 3-D printers and their potential to eliminate the manufacturing industry as we’ve known it? It will soon be possible to custom make your own shoes with a 3-D printer as well as make almost any manufactured part you can name. There goes numerous more industries. What about solar power? It’s already the fastest growing energy industry in the world and what will that mean for traditional power-producing industries like oil, hydro and coal? How many jobs do you think there will be in the Elk Valley in 20 years? Not too many and what will this mean for Elkford, Sparwood and Cranbrook?
And have you thought about the impact that robots will have on the world? I’ve already mentioned medicine, but “bots” also have the potential to take over teaching and most of the service industries, and if you don’t believe me, robots are already checking people in at high-end hotels around the world and carrying luggage to their rooms.
Indeed, robots have the potential to eliminate almost all jobs in the future and then what will we do? Travel, contemplate our navels, write poetry, get high on medical marijuana or demand our right to die as we’ll soon be able to do in Canada?
I don’t know what you think about this, but I find the future a bit frightening.
Gerry Warner is a retired journalist, who does not look forward to the future.