[WARNING: extremely depressing post that you prolly shouldn’t read]
I just got wind of the mass layoffs over at Blizzard. My heart and condolences go out to each and everyone affected. I’ve been there, and know first-hand what those folks are going through.
But it got me thinking again about something that’s been rattling around my head now for the past several years: I’m starting to get very worried about the future of the American economy. Blizzard’s layoffs aren’t what got me to thinking about this again — it’s the fact that Blizzard is in the tech sector. You’ll see why this is important if you’ll just bear with me. I’m not interested in doom and gloom or bringing people down — I really need someone out there to tell me that everything’s going to be OK, and that it’s simply my perspective that’s whacked.
A huge chunk of the economy runs on invisible jobs that most of us take for granted, and I believe the Internet will effectively destroy this unseen part of the economy. The question is, can the economy survive without these jobs?
If everything goes to the Internet, there will be no need for people to manufacture products, packaging, transport and storage. There will be no need to distribute the product from the warehouse to the retailer. There will be no need for that warehouse, or all the retail workers. No truck drivers, no one operating forklifts. All the people involved in managing the warehouse and the stock. No one will be manufacturing the cases, covers, boxes or printing manuals. The guys who maintain and work at producing paper and maintaining printing equipment. The first job you had working at a record store, or a game store or a bookstore? Yeah, those bridges to adult life will not be afforded to our ever growing population.
My point is, is that the more material goods we transfer to the Internet, the less jobs Americans will have available to them. Using Blizzard as an example, not even the tech sector is immune. How’s that for irony? There are only so many “Internet” positions available, I can’t see how the tech sector could absorb all the workers out there that at one time would have driven a forklift, or managed inventory.
I think companies are beginning to realize this, which could be why so many companies are sitting on record profits while at the same time, practicing hiring freezes. They don’t know how to adjust to this new type of economy that just came out of nowhere: the Internet economy, where many of the goods are digitally distributed. People are starting to realize that the reason a book was $49.95 was because of the material handling that went into printing it. You cannot charge the same price for a digital book as you would with a manufactured one. Nothing was printed and no truck driver was paid to deliver it.
I hate to say this, but I think the Internet is going to destroy the American economy. Our economy is so dependent on the shipping, handling and manufacturing of physical, material goods, that I honestly can’t see how it can adjust to digital distribution. As more and more people are born in America, there are less and less jobs because of the internet. How many working class Americans will still be out of jobs once the tech sector has been saturated, and Amazon can hire no more truck drivers? How many in 5 years? 10? What about in 25 years? How many working class Americans will there be in 25 years, and how many jobs would the Internet have claimed by then?
I’m really worried about this, and I’d really like an economist to slap me upside the head and tell me I’ve got this all wrong. Someone please tell me I’m just being an idiot so I can go on my merry way.