communicationIn today’s world, communication –if you want to call it that –seems one-sided. As a 1930s kid, I could never have imagined talking to a computer. Yet that’s what I do everyday.

Yesterday I got my monthly bill from Time Warner Cable. I called the suggested phone number. It knew the number I was calling from without my saying a word. By the end of the transaction I paid the bill by credit card and the computer said, “Thank you.” Later in the day there was a message on my answering service. My doctor’s office called to remind me of my next appointment. A computer was talking to a computer.

Whatever happened to talking to a real person, to hearing their voice? Remember when you called someone and you had to say who you were? In times gone by when you called and asked how they were and they said, “Fine,” you could tell from the sound of their voice how they were doing. Now when they e-mail or text you with “Fine,” you don’t have a clue as to what it means. And what about a dialogue, do you remember the concept? People actually talked to one another, exchanging ideas. You’d listen to what the other person had to say and respond. There was an exchange. It was part of the creative process. Both parties benefited. Somehow or other I don’t get the same reaction when I talk to a computer or send or receive an e-mail. It is one-sided. Is it just me, or have we lost something because of the way we “communicate” now?

As an economist, I must also add an important side-effect of the new way of communicating. In the olden days, when you wanted to place a long-distance call you talked to an operator and she placed it for you. Or, if you were in your office and wanted to send a letter, you dictated it to a secretary. She typed it up and mailed it. All that involved people and jobs for them. Mechanization and computerization have eliminated those employment opportunities.

Trust me, I’m not recommending that we go back to the old ways, but the new technology has eliminated jobs. And, unlike yesteryear, when your car broke down you took it to the mechanic. Now you are likely to replace the computer, TV, DVR, iPad or iPhone with a new one. Even repairs are capital and not labor intensive. So if you are looking for a job and all you have are the old skills, the ones that worked in the past, it is highly likely that you’ll have a hard time finding one. The new technology has allowed us to communicate with more people, faster and less expensively — worldwide. But it has also changed the way in which we “talk” to one another. Moreover, it has markedly changed the jobs that are available. In short, the new ways have changed the way we interact, do business and the culture.


One thought on “Communication

  1. Bernie,

    I liked your comments, as always, though I think Im less concerned about the new technologies.

    Yes, some jobs (wheel-wright, cooper, blacksmith, typist) are eliminated due to new technologies. But look at the millions now involved in the high-tech field.

    My father did not like the new technology of his early days the telephone. He couldnt read the face of the person he was talking with, and therefore couldnt tell how honest they were with him. For important meetings, he always made them face-to-face.

    Keep your ideas coming!

    See you Tuesday,


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